According to a 2005 report to the United Nations, there are approximately 100 million homeless people worldwide. People rarely expect to become homeless. Life happens in ways that lead people from all kinds of backgrounds facing life without income, without money, and, on occasion, without affordable housing options even if they are fortunate enough to have a regular income.
In recent years, it’s been a domino effect that has added scores of middle income and even upper middle income people among the ranks of the homeless. Widespread disasters such as Hurricanes Katrina in 2005 and Sandy in 2012 left many people without homes, and in some cases without employment to return to, and no affordable housing options to replace those homes. In NYC, homeless shelters experienced a 19 percent increase in people living in homeless shelters from 2012 to 2013, with more than 50,000 people sleeping in homeless shelters each night.
The “Great Recession” left scores of people in foreclosure on their homes and underemployed or unemployed. Even more frightening for these people was the fact that they were also left with damaged credit reports that made finding rental property nearly impossible even if they had jobs.
Being homeless, in cities of all sizes throughout the U.S., makes it difficult to get a good night’s sleep, let alone have a comfortable mattress to sleep on. It’s a lonely situation for the homeless. In many cases, they feel as though no one is watching out for them. Perhaps this is why tent cities, like this Lakewood Township, N.J. tent city, seem to be cropping up in areas where widespread foreclosures or natural disasters have taken place. It’s a sense of community amid the chaos of being homeless. For some, it’s an opportunity to put down some sort of roots and gain a semblance of normalcy in their worlds.
New Jersey isn’t the only place where tent cities abound. Homelessness is a huge problem in places many people find surprising like Dignity Village in Portland, Oregon, and the Silicon Valley Tent City in California. The people in these communities have all walked different roads in life to get there, but now they form a community of shared circumstances.
Tent cities have their share of problems, as does any community. For the most part, however, it’s a safer environment where those who are homeless can sleep at night with some measure of security they’d never experience on their own or on the streets.
Even among the homeless, who have enough struggles to deal with on their own, getting a good night’s sleep is vitally important. In fact, it may be even more important for the homeless, who often can’t afford adequate preventative health care or proper nutrition. These types of communities help make that possible.
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