March 19, 2008
The New Hooverville
It's called Tent City:
Over the last six months, more than 250 homeless people have pitched tents near Ontario airport, creating a burgeoning shantytown that sprawls across vacant lots and spills into side streets...This is eerily reminiscent of Depression-era shanty towns called Hooverville. Never thought I'd see it in my lifetime. Admittedly, most of its residents are substance abusers, alcoholics and the mentally ill, but as the video showed, an increasing number are victims of the economic fallout resulting from the mortgage crisis. With the looming recession and high current rate of unemployment, how many more follow?
The city of Ontario, California deserves credit for attempting to assist the homeless instead of just ignoring or arresting them, but settlements like Tent City are not the answer. Already, some of the homeless are in the process of being kicked out with no other city offering to take them in.
There are no easy answers but homelessness is far from unsolvable. At the very minimum, the most vulnerable should be provided the basic necessities. Programs like L.A.'s Project 50 and Santa Monica's Chronic Homelessness Project are small but significant steps towards that direction.
But that is just one end of the solution spectrum. Even more crucial is preventing homelessness to begin with, by ensuring that we meet the minimum acceptable standards in a civilized society: fair wages and adequate food, housing, education and health care for every man, woman and child.
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