Defend Tent Cities!

This is a perfect issue for pitting the lumpenproletariat against the upper middle class from which the managerial strata is drawn.


With more than a dozen homeless camps and 453 displaced residents, Virginia Beach may be the first community in the state to sanction a homeless “tent-city.”

According to Hampton Roads, the city shut down an encampment of more than 20 people in March, but following the death of a homeless woman last month they seem to be easing their position.

Proponents for the plan say it will allow for easier monitoring and provision of services.

“Until we solve the housing and poverty crisis, unfortunately, there will be people living outside,” one resident says. “There’s no other place to go.”

Opponents don’t agree. Sharon Chamard, a professor at the University of Alaska, author of a manual on homeless encampments, said homeowners often object to the idea. “Most communities are resistant to this,” she told Hampton Roads. “Many people see it as supporting an illegitimate lifestyle.”

The mayor agrees, but the decision will rest in the hands of the city council.

Chamard also points out sanctioned tent-cities face less opposition in the more liberal Pacific Northwest.

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4 replies »

  1. More tent cities! In the “more liberal Pacific Northwest,” Portland sanctioned its tent city; and pushed it out into the boon docks beyond our industrial corridor in the middle of nowhere by the train tracks and a marsh. The unsactioned camp is in the central east side. Jane Jacobs argued that skid row isn’t full of homeless people because that’s just where they’ve decided to park themselves. She argues that skid row materializes in any area that the rest of the city has already abandoned.

    Shame on the U of A professor. “Homeowners often object to the idea,” says the prophet of the obvious.


  2. I was an activist in municipal politics all through the 1990s dealing with these kinds of issues. There was (and is) a perpetual effort by vested interests like real estate, upper middle class civic associations, politically connected business associations, local corporate plutocrats, etc. to repress any sort of economic activity outside bourgeoisie class interests. It didn’t matter what it was. It could be churches running soup kitchens, or respectable businesses run by lower to middle income family oriented people, or youth oriented business, or panhandlers, or hookers selling their services on street corners. Even McDonald’s came under attack from these elements because of the habit of homeless people of hanging out there. A lot of my pro-lumpenproletarian outlook was formed by watching these developments. And a lot of my “beyond left and right” outlook came from realizing that the rural poor are under attack in the same way from the same kinds of interests.

  3. I’ve been looking at the analogy of the homeless as philosophers in the tradition of the cynics. Diogenes used to masturbate in the public market place and live in a bath tub.

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