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Indybay Feature
Tue Feb 13 2018 (Updated 02/21/18)
Tent City, USA: The Growth of America’s Homeless Encampments
Report Reveals Rapid Growth of Homeless Encampments Across America
The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty released a report, Tent City USA: The Growth of America’s Homeless Encampments and How Communities are Responding, reviewing the rapid growth of homeless people living in tents across the United States over the past decade, as measured by documentation in media reports.

Research showed a 1,342 percent increase in homeless encampments reported between 2007 and 2017, with at least one encampment reported in all fifty states and the District of Columbia. Encampments ranged in size, with half showing a size of 11-50 residents, while 17 percent had more than 100 residents. The report tracked the number of unique encampments as reported by the media, acknowledging that there are likely more encampments intentionally hidden or forced to move, and therefore not documented.

As encampments become increasingly common, local governments have enacted laws to prohibit living in tents. Three-quarters of all encampments recorded in the report are prohibited by law; only 4 percent were reported to be legal. Cities such as Denver, CO, Olympia, WA, and San Diego, CA were cited in the report for particularly harsh laws and sweeps that criminalize people experiencing homelessness. The report notes that evicting—or “sweeping”—people from tent communities is costly and ineffective.

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