April 17, 2010; Keene Sentinel | During the Great Depression, they were called “Hoovervilles” after the well-intentioned but hapless U.S. President who oversaw the beginning of this nation’s worst economic crisis ever. The current Great Recession is apparently on the road to recovery, if consumer spending upticks are any indication, but look hard enough, and you’ll see modern day encampments of the homeless and dispossessed in our own communities. In Keene, New Hampshire, a “tent city” of the homeless exists in the woods behind a shopping center. The residents have been told to vacate the site, but so far no action has been taken by authorities to have them removed physically. Apparently, a mid-winter order to vacate had been obeyed, with no one there during a visit on April 5th, but several are now back living in shacks made out of tarps and other flimsy materials. An unidentified social service agency called the owner, a local Democratic state legislator’s family, about the encampment, soon followed by a call from the police. Is this just an idiosyncratic occurrence in Keene? Not quite. In Vancouver, where the homeless were swept from the streets into temporary shelters during the 2010 Winter Olympics, the Olympic shelters are closing between April 20th and April 31st, and shelter tents have already begun to appear. In Camden, New Jersey, the residents of a more populous tent city had been facing a deadline of this past Thursday to clear out, but the deadline passed without incident so far. Camden’s tent city is located on state government-owned land, so these residents might get a few more benefits than their Keene brethren if they are evicted. Already, the number of Camden tent city residents has fallen from above 60 to around 35. Nonprofits such as the Volunteers of America have been trying to get the tenters to complete forms for alternative housing. We hope we do not have to make any more trips down Hooverville’s Nostalgia Lane and see more people calling home a place where there’s a tarp over their heads.—Rick Cohen
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