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Tent Cities Are Better Than Shelters

Take any city in America and do a search in Google for it with the words “homeless shelter.”
Like this:

  • Albuquerque homeless shelter
  • Detroit homeless shelter
  • Dayton homeless shelter
  • San Antonio homeless shelter
  • Cleveland homeless shelter

Then read some of the reviews in Google about any of these shelters.
SteelBridge
525 2nd St SW, Albuquerque, NM

This Place is A Joke. I only have it 1 Star because I couldn’t leave a review without doing so. This is suppose to be a Bible Based Recovery Facility. But the treat you like your still a junkie

Detroit Rescue Mission
3535 3rd Ave, Detroit, MI

lf l could give it -0 negative stars if l could. Sometimes life happens, l wound up in there. This is where you have workers that are ex addicts and ex homeless. They get the position only to dog and disrespect men that are already down. Mr. Blakely is a snake. Watch the short guy on the door in the morning who has braids and shades on. He’s a set up artist.

St. Vincent de Paul Gateway Shelter for Women and Families
120 W Apple St, Dayton, OH

Terrible, terrible place to be!! It’s horrible!! Whatever you do, try not to go there!

San Antonio Rescue Mission
907 E Quincy St, San Antonio, TX

Walking in feals like going to prison , I would recommend the salvation army furst

The City Mission
5310 Carnegie Ave, Cleveland, OH

What a bunch of thieves,this place is awful!!

I’m not picking on any shelter in particular or any city. I just randomly thought of those cities and clicked on the first Google listing for homeless shelters in their city.
It’s like this all over America.
I seriously have never seen a Google listing for any shelter in America that doesn’t have reviews exactly like all of these reviews.
This would be funny if it wasn’t for the fact that these are the places of last resort for our weakest and poorest citizens.
You might be tempted to say: “What do they expect? Beggars can’t be choosers.”
If you are thinking that keep in mind that the only thing these people did wrong compared to the rest of the population is: They ran out of money.
They are legally living in America. If we are going to say that you can live in America as a Free citizen only if you can afford it, then lets come clean with that stance. But I don’t recall reading that as a requirement in the Constitution.
And that’s exactly what is happening. They are not legally allowed to live anywhere. Encampments routinely get destroyed. Cars used as shelters get towed. It is illegal to be homeless in America. That’s the plain and simple truth of the matter. There is no freedom in America for the homeless.
There is a high likelihood that they will force me to take down the homeless tent city we have created on my private property. It’s my property. It’s my choice. But that’s not good enough for city officials. Helping the homeless in this way is inappropriate and not good for the city.
Saying they don’t care about the homeless and the brutal existence they experience is not an overstatement. The homeless are nothing other than an annoying problem for the cities of America.
This fact hit home for me as I was reading this comprehensive study from Yale: Welcome Home: The Rise of Tent Cities in the United States
They write:

Homeless encampments often reflect the lack of adequate housing or shelter in the community. Our research indicates that in addition to the simple lack of available beds, the shelter system often does not meet the needs of homeless individuals, especially over the longer term. For example, inability to accommodate couples; requiring families to separate; safety concerns; restrictions on storing belongings; and opening and closing times that conflict with work schedules can deter individuals and families from shelters. In some instances, tent cities can offer individuals and families autonomy, community, security, and privacy in places where shelters have not been able to create such environments.

This is an intensive 155 page analysis. Here are their primary recommendations for working with tent encampments:

  • Affirm and implement the human right to housing by increasing the availability of
    affordable, safe, high-quality housing.
  • Work constructively with tent city encampments to support viable temporary solutions.
  • Repeal or stop enforcing counterproductive municipal ordinances and state laws that
    criminalize homelessness; pass Homeless Bills of Rights in accordance with human
    rights standards.
  • Prioritize the autonomy and dignity of homeless individuals in the provision of shelter
    and placement in affordable housing.
  • Adopt the Housing First model wherever possible.
  • Support innovative entrepreneurial education and employment programs for persons
    experiencing homelessness.
  • Recognize and provide treatment for the psychological causes of homelessness,
    including the “trauma histories” that often result in diagnosable mental illnesses.

They conclude:

…municipalities should work together with tent city residents in a manner that prioritizes the autonomy and dignity of homeless individuals and allows them to have a voice in the process. Rather than viewing tent cities as a threat to public safety, communities should view self-organization by homeless persons as an opportunity to provide services and to address the root causes of homelessness and guarantee the human rights of all their residents.

I sometimes compare the Midwest to middle management. We are useful, good people. But daring, innovative ideas don’t typically come from here. We’re more of the keeper of the way things are.
If we don’t want to be called the “flyover states” we need to change that mentality. We need to push the boundaries. We need to innovate and take risks. That means fixing things that need to be fixed instead of waiting for California and New York to say it’s OK for us to do it.
Incidentally, California not only says it’s ok to have tent cities they are actively putting more and more people in tents.
San Diego unveils unorthodox homelessness solution: big tents | US news | The Guardian

Christine Wade sits among her children in front of their donated tent in the city-sanctioned encampment on a parking lot in San Diego. They are, from left, Shawnni, 12, Roland, 4, Rayahna, 3, Jaymason, 2, Brooklyn, 8, and Shaccoya, 14. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
That picture is from this article: Rising homeless population in San Diego flocks to tents – Las Vegas Review-Journal
Just as the reviews of shelters are strikingly similar, so are the findings of tent encampments.
This is what the Yale study concludes:

…encampments and tent cities have emerged as a means of self-help for homeless individuals to survive and find shelter, safety, and a sense of community.

We see this exact thing in our camp. Safety and community.

This is Brian and Alice. They met here and now are a couple.
In fact, the community aspect is so strong that others in the homeless services community are seeing it as a bad thing. They regularly tell me that the community aspect of our facility is so strong that it’s keeping people from not taking housing. Apparently our tents our so incredible that no one wants to leave them for an actual house.
That is an absurd position. Not one of these people wants to be in a tent. And they most certainly do not want to be in a tent through the winter. Yet our facility was full all winter long last year. Living like that is incredibly difficult.

These are some of our tents in the winter of 2017 – 2018
Homeless service providers have told me that the street is “motivating.” I was so shocked by that statement that I asked them to confirm that position at the following meeting we had. They agreed. The street, in it’s violence, isolation and mortal fear is motivating.

This is Brian. He got brutally beat on the street because he hears voices and talks to them.
This is coming from the people in charge of helping the homeless.
They are grasping at straws. Because the truth of the matter is: the current system is broken and inadequate.
20,000 people are on the Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority waiting list. It can take up to 3 years to get a home through them.
And the system is incredibly difficult to navigate… particularly for a person who has just lost everything.  The system has an “if you want it bad enough” mentality.
“There are options and solutions, but sometimes it just comes down to a person not capable of understanding or not having the ability to get along with others or follow through on plans.” That’s a direct quote from a homeless service provider.
So what are these people to do?
Go to the prison that is a shelter, live on the street, or come to our tent city?
What would you do?

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