Let’s At Least Try It!
Camp Metro Protest: TENT CITY
I guess what seems so hard to understand about the Mayor’s continued objection to a community sponsored Camp is that we aren’t asking for much. Liability would run around 12K-15K for around 50 tent pads on one acre or less per year. Sanitation would run around $5500 if no city service or septic exist. Rent would also be between 12 and 15 K per year if the City refused to allow the camp on City owned unused parcels beyond neighborhoods. Refuse hauling would be around the same if community did not volunteer. Less depending on recycle program. Bus passes are budgeted for within existing programs, but let’s assume the camp purchases 25 passes at $9000 per year. The current camp is able to share the passes and this practice would continue so 25 passes rather than 50 would suffice. Excluding existing, already funded programs, around 45K dollars is estimated to the bare bones yearly cost associated with the camp. In addition, should the City have absolutely no desire to participate, it is believed the bare bone cost could be covered by the camp and by the community if necessary. For around 900 dollars per year, per pad site, we could try an idea and see if it works. I guarantee to you that it is cheaper than leaving people on their own in the street.
Moving beyond monetary concerns, there is precedent upon which to draw, including the current camp on the hill. Camps are not meant to be ‘the’ solution. They are meant to relieve our streets in some small way from the pressures of this national crisis. More importantly, they can provide those people that don’t quite fit within the existing system with a safe, secure, environment to improve upon their individual conditions. Give me a lever and a solid piece of ground and I can move the world. That is all they are asking for…a solid piece of ground.
Not everyone on the streets is a junkie. A pimp. A gangster. A whore. A thug. Not everyone is lazy. If you’re honest, you see that many, many people are but one misstep of mind or luck away from the reality found living in the street.
Shelters are not the be all, end all. This is evidenced by the reality of tent encampments across our City. It is a current reality. The reasons for avoiding existing services go well beyond drug use or behavior problems. There are legitimate concerns within existing shelters and many of the Metro Campers don’t always trust ‘the system.’ Their experiences within it have in many cases proved to be futile at best and penal among the worst. People have waited for housing for years, including a man with no legs. How that is even possible is baffling.
Furthermore, most shelters are not designed to facilitate personalities that go beyond the normal or typical. Unfortunately, many of the people living in the streets would be categorized as going beyond the normal. Living in the street requires different skills than being safely housed. Survival is a constant pressure. Think about that. Real, actual survival. Not 401K shit. Life. Starvation. Death. Constant stress. Sleep deprived. Nowhere to go. “I need a place to sit” is what one camper told me and he meant it. You could see it.
Live under that stress all day, every day and do it isolated from the activity of the housed, and see if it doesn’t affect you.
Metro camp would serve to relieve that stress so that individuals have a fair opportunity to work towards something better. It is about rest, peace of mind, safety of self and possessions. It is about allowing free and sovereign individuals a realistic place to call home while they work to improve their individual condition and the condition of the camp as a whole. It is unrealistic to expect that people, en masse, can overcome the many obstacles found within life on the street and within the institutions that are funded to serve the needs of their condition.
A shopping cart overloaded with possessions and a rough appearance are unwelcome almost everywhere. Set your ID and wallet aside, walk outside and keep going. Go look for a job in two weeks and let us know how that goes.
The camp can aid the non-housed in some of the most basic ways and create an environment where better is possible. Without City support, the numbers cited earlier would at the minimum, provide safety and security for oneself and one’s possessions along with basic sanitation. However, with City Support, we could create a model to proud of. One to be carried forward by others, so that we could begin to reach significant numbers and set precedent for a national model.
Demand for this type of living may be limited by the expectations put forward or it may be fairly high. If demand proved high, it would only require 4 groups or organizations to sponsor 4 camps, each supporting 50 tent pads. 200 pads is not an insignificant percent of the population of non-housed people.
With the City on board, many more things become possible if desired. Distance from City Center becomes less important as one or two shuttle vans could serve transportation needs, not unlike assisted care facilities do or other relatively large communities . In addition, shower facilities like those used in the oil and gas industries and the movie industry could make scheduled rounds between the camps. A mess tent could greatly improve the diet of the non-house helping to reduce the long term health cost of associated with poor diet. There is intense community support and interest being shown in community gardening and community ‘maker-movements.’ Solar experimentation and water harvesting would surely be a focus of the camp in the future. As stability increases, fun and cost effective micro-housing could be developed alongside the housed community. Metro Camp Swop Sundays (camp wide garage sales) could help raise money and allow social interaction between the housed and non-housed. The list of possibilities and interest in this type of communal effort seem without end.
Intense outreach would be possible as those in need would be much less transient and the safety and rest of mind and body the camp allows would allow people to be in the best possible place to take advantage of the programs we pay for. Again, it makes little sense to spend money offering services to people who simply are not in a place to meet the demands of that offer.
That, in essence, is the need for camps. Camps can bridge the gap that exist between the non-housed and the services and programs offered them…all of which are funded for by the taxpayer.
To steal a line from the City, we can come together as community and be truly innovative. Our soldiers live in tents as can our homeless. It doesn’t have to be a disaster.
For that kind of money we ought to at least try.
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