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Tent cities: There’s got to be a better way

Post by Patrick O'Callahan on Nov. 11, 2009 at 6:16 pm with 2 Comments »
November 11, 2009 6:18 pm

Why would a guy who cares about the homeless be against a tent city for the
homeless? Let us count the reasons.

David Curry, who runs the Tacoma Rescue Mission and finds room for a whole lot of homeless people at his inn, came by yesterday to update us on what the mission’s doing. He said he was glad the Puyallup City Council recently opted not to let homeless advocates erect a 40-tent city in the community.

Here’s his take:

“I’ve never been a fan of tent cities. I don’t think it’s humanitarian.”

“What we do is we put somebody in a tent and say, ‘Now you have a tent.’ It’s a little condescending.” It just “maintains people in misery.”

“I understand the argument.” Tent cities might make sense in a place like Lima, which has 5 million people below the poverty line. In Pierce County, though, roughly 1,800 people are homeless. “That’s is a manageable problem.”

So manage it. Most cities are doing very little. “It’s typically a pittance unless it’s an emergency.”

He says Puyallup’s $5,000 budget to get people in shelters on freezing nights is completely inadequate. Tacoma is the only city in the county that provides real money to provide genuine assistance to the homeless, which includes long-term housing, job training, drug and alcohol treatment and other measures that pull them out of homelessness.

Other cities do little and “figure they’ll go to Tacoma or Seattle.”

Rather than tent cities and other symbolic gestures, Curry would rather see cities develop comprehensive plans to deal with homelessness and put their money where their mouths is.

Leave a comment Comments → 2
  1. jimkingjr says:

    Tent cities are all about political activists extorting money, not about dealing with the problem of homelessness.

  2. The political activists in Seattle have a long tradition, regardless of extortion they are the cheapest service available and do a very good job at self-policing their camps.

    We would be so luck as to have a similar level of ‘self-policing’ from some rather more expensive Seattle folks.

    Tacoma could use a tent City – if the right people do it.

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