In conjunction with other tent city movements -- both around the country and internationally -- DTCI will be marking the first ITCAHD with a rally to promote action by governments to permit and promote erection of small basic survival structures in cities. Michael Stoops, Acting Executive Director of the National Coalition for the Homeless in Washington, DC has agreed to come on board to support this demand for immediate, low-cost housing solutions.
Cities have erected numerous barriers to the development and implementation of basic, extremely low cost survival structures. Building and zoning codes have been used to obstruct the construction of many types of structures that would provide basic safety to the poor. Even tents and other structures that have been designed for extreme weather conditions are not acceptable for inner-city survival.
Rather, cities have preferred to "warehouse" the poor in dismal, over-crowded, disease-laden "big boxes" that growing ranks of homeless prefer to avoid. In addition, cities seem to want to force homeless people to go through "services" in order to obtain desirable housing -- autonomy and privacy seem to hold no meaning or value to them. However, realizing that they don't fit a good portion of homeless people, some municipalities have abandoned these outmoded trends, and started to allow people to autonomously erect "housing alternatives" such as small domes, tents yurts and straw-bale structures. These units are primarily used as transitional, not permanent, housing.
Conventional warehouse shelters and "services" are no longer considered to be adequate (or even humane) responses to homelessness. The increase in homelessness in recent years has been caused, not by a dearth of shelters and services, but by the depletion of low-cost housing stocks, the failure of wages to be adjusted accordingly, and the loss of high-paying corporate jobs and loyalty. These latter areas are where adjustments primarily need to be made, not the mental states of those who have been displaced.
In addition, shelters are simply far too costly for cities to build in sufficient numbers for the numbers of new homeless. And, "services" either takes too long to work, if they work, or are too coercive, demeaning and intrusive for many people.
And, as for the Mayor's proposed 10-Year Plan, it
The only adequate response to mass homelessness is for governments -- immediately! -- to either erect basic structures themselves, or to allow either property-owners or homeless people to do so on available, under-utilized land. Several cities have already done this, and have demonstrated that there is no overriding reason not to do allow housing by and for the poor.
Many models and prototypes of emergency structures exist, and have been utilized to provide housing relief in other countries. Some actually exceed all conventional building codes.
However, American cities have still rejected most of these structures -- generally without any good reason. Criminal, fire and other concerns have been greatly exaggerated by officials and citizens.
In reality, problems such as these have not been found to significantly differ from those existing in conventional neighborhoods. Neither have tent cities --or other forms of low-cost housing -- been shown to truly have significant impacts on surrounding property values.
Denver officials have said, on one hand, that all options to housing the homeless must be utilized... and that they support self-determination. On the other, however, the city still obstructs small, dispersed units. It's time for Denver citizens to tell the city to get out of the way of ending homelessness!
For more information, email CB Rose at firstname.lastname@example.org, or attend one of our Denver Tent City meetings at 10:00 a.m. Saturdays at El Centro, 23rd and Stout.