Watch a homeless ‘tent city’ get bulldozed

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

NEW YORK — Homeless encampments known as “tent cities” are popping up across the country.

Formed as an alternative to shelters and street-living, these makeshift communities are often set up off of highways, under bridges and in the woods.

Some have “mayors” who determine the rules of the camp and who can and can’t join, others are a free-for-all. Some are overflowing with trash, old food, human waste and drug paraphernalia, others are relatively clean and drug-free.

The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty documented media accounts of tent cities between 2008 and 2013, and estimated that there are more than 100 tent communities in the United States — and it says the encampments are on the rise.

“[T]here have been increasing reports of homeless encampments emerging in communities across the country, primarily in urban and suburban areas and spanning states as diverse as Hawaii, Alaska, California, and Connecticut,” the organization’s study states.

Tent cities are most common in areas where shelter space is scarce or housing unaffordable. Yet, many people say they choose to live in a tent even when shelter is an option. And they do so for one big reason: freedom.

Shelters typically have strict rules: many require guests to check in and out at certain times that can conflict with work schedules and they often don’t allow couples to stay together. Drug and alcohol use is also prohibited, and some people don’t qualify for the subsidies they need to stay in a shelter because of a prior jail time (for certain crimes), or other reasons.

“Shelter is one step away from jail,” said Dave, who lived in a tent city in Camden, N.J., that CNNMoney visited.

Another resident of the same camp, Mike, said the only work he has been able to find is part-time road maintenance, which takes place at night. Because the shelters in the area would have required him to be inside by a certain time, like 10 p.m., staying there wasn’t an option. Setting up his own tent in the woods gave him the freedom to come and go as he pleased.

Some residents also view tent cities as safer than shelters because they say there’s more of a sense of community.

As these encampments continue to spread, public officials are responding in different ways.

The NLCHP found that of the more than 100 camps, only eight were actually considered legal. Ten tent cities weren’t officially recognized, but the city or county wasn’t doing anything to get rid of them. The vast majority of encampments, however, have been shut down and occupants have been evicted.

One of the most recent evictions took place in Camden, N.J., this week, when the state, county and city joined forces to shut down multiple tent cities and kick out the residents. While the county worked with the occupants to find them somewhere to go, Camden’s shelters were already full and many people ended up on the streets.

Instead of evicting people from tent cities, the NLCHP says the root of the issue — unaffordable housing — needs to be addressed.

“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,” the report states. “Ultimately, the solution to the proliferation of encampments across the United States is the provision of affordable housing.”


  • Kennith Thomas

    Just haul them off, gas them and burn them. It’s the republican way. If you can’t pay taxes then you are worthless.

    • Pitiful.

      Exactly. The Republicans only care about unborn people. Once you’re born, if you need some help, tough luck. Just “stop being poor”, is what they say….

      • RCC

        Hmmm, as opposed to Dummycrats taking money from hard-working people and giving it to people who are defrauding the system, are here illegally, or refuse to work at all? Oh, and just for an FYI, I’m poor and am doing something about it instead of standing in line holding my hand out for somebody else’s money. It’s called self-responsibility. Maybe the government should be handing that out instead of my hard earned money. Of course, that will come from the Republicans too because we all know that Dummycrats don’t even know the meaning of being responsible for themselves. Maybe that’s Bush’s fault too!

    • RCC

      Let me simplify tax policy for you. During a recession, Republicans believe that you should leave the economy alone and everything will fix itself. Democrats believe you should lead by example…i.e. spend money so the “people” will also spend money to boost the economy. They do this in the form of creating jobs when the job are not necessary and welfare programs, such as government housing. The problem is, the government doesn’t have any money of their own. The government TAKES money. It’s not charity; it’s taxes. It takes it from the same people they just raised taxes to fund such things as solar energy companies that go bankrupt and government housing to people that have arrest records a mile long and 10 kids all by different fathers. So, what really happened? The government took 17% (lowest figure) of somebody’s income in income tax, 10.1% in state tax, 7.5% in sales taxes, 7.65% in socials security/medicaid, 2.5% in property taxes, and oh!, let’s not forget that wonderful healthcare “tax”. They turned around and paid their fat salaries, paved a few roads, and gave the rest to people who pay no taxes whatsoever and therefore, don’t put money back into the economy. It’s misguided logic.

      So, really, who’s more valuable? The people who fund the government and welfare programs by paying taxes or people that live off the government? The truth is, you can’t have one without the other. If you get rid of one, the other ceases to exist. I ask again, who really is the most valuable?

      • Charlene Burbett

        I completely agree with you about the welfare system but some people do actually need the help when they lose a job or some other circumstance. If the government wants to help these people they need to weed out the ones who are a waste of air, living off all the free stuff they can get. Why are some people such trash? Would it really be that difficult to get off their behinds and go to work everyday? I guess it’s just easier that way, I don’t know. Thank you for your comments though.

  • mergatroyd

    Too many regulations make housing more expensive. Do you know of any regulations that reduce costs?
    These people were providing for themselves according to their ability.

Comments are closed.