Ali’s blog

Mostly quant stuff with occasional digressions

Tent City: A sign of the times?

Posted by alifinmath on March 15, 2008

This was on ABC three months ago:

Tent city growing as US ‘housing crisis’ worsens

Between railroad tracks and beneath the roar of departing planes sits ‘tent city’, a terminus for homeless people in the once-booming suburbia of southern California.

The noisy, dusty camp sprang up in July with 20 residents and now numbers 200 people, including several children, growing as this region east of Los Angeles has been hit by the US housing crisis.

The unravelling of the region known as the Inland Empire reads like a 21st century version of The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck’s novel about families driven from their lands by the Great Depression.

As more families throw in the towel and head to foreclosure across the US, the social costs of collapse are adding up in the form of higher rates of homelessness, crime and even disease.

While no current residents claim to be victims of foreclosure, all agree that tent city is a symptom of the wider economic downturn.

And it’s just a matter of time before foreclosed families end up at tent city, local housing experts say.

I don’t know if any reader has seen the film, Emperor of the North, which has a depiction of one of the large hobo habitations of the period — tents and shacks made with hardwood and corrugated iron. It was a testing time for the country. In big cities in South America, Africa, and Asia, the periphery outside the heavily policed central high-rise zone is a patchwork of shanty towns which houses most of the urban inhabitants. In the Americas, megacities such as Sao Paolo, Buenos Aires, and Mexico City are like this. And so are other cities and megacities in the Third World: Cairo, Mumbai, Karachi, and Lagos (among umpteen others). There’s an insightful analysis of this in Mike Davis’s Planet of Slums. As the population of the USA edges towards 400m by mid-century, as the population becomes… er… ever more “diverse,” and as the polarisation between rich and poor grows unabated, one can expect this same phenomenon to emerge in the United States.


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