The people living there are "working class folks just looking for a place to sleep at night," (Police Captain Mike) Wilson told the City Council on Tuesday night.
What had once been a violent population of transients living along the trees and heavy brush is now a clear product of the current downturn in the economy, he said.
The occupants — perhaps 40 or more at night, Wilson said — have a series of neatly kept campers, some of them fenced.
City Councilor Michael Selvidge, who's seen the encampment, said it was less like a transient camp and more like homesteading.
Some U.S. cities are reporting a decline in the numbers of "chronically" homeless people. But how many people are homeless right now? The federally-sponsored Point-in-Time Count, done this past January, haven't been released yet for the country as a whole. Then there's the question of definition. Homeless activist Diane Nilan at Invisible Homeless Kids, wants to know why H.U.D. is still refusing to expand the definition of homeless "to include families and teens in motels, doubled-up with others, or outside the sparse HUD-funded shelter system." She could use signatures on a petition in support of HR 29, The Homeless Children and Youth Act of 2009.
When does a person's untenable living situation reach the level of definition of being "without a home?" I spent a few hours at Arise for Social Justice this week, and here are some of the stories I've heard of people's living situations: A man applying for food stamps who is "tenting out" rather than stay at the local shelter; a mom with one kid who is being evicted but isn't eligible for shelter for another month because almost a year ago she was also in need of a shelter; a man going to a local beauty academy who said he is "renting a room' in somebody's house but they don't want him there any longer; a mentally ill grandmother just dropped at her granddaughter's doorstep by her son.
Who is without a home?