Occupy Underpass

Posted on January 22, 2012 by

Photo credit: Philadelphia Inquirer

Here in rural Maryland things have stayed rather quiet in these harsh economic times. Groceries and gasoline are expensive, rental costs are increasing while house purchases get cheaper, and there’s been a spate of air conditioner and generator thefts in our neighborhood.

The biggest change has been the arrival of our very own “tent town” under an overpass. Despite the steady addition of homeless shelters — who keep the hundreds of native homeless people politely invisible — the county can’t keep up with the increase in numbers. Not only do we have the native poor to deal with, our county’s relative prosperity is attracting the poor from all over America, who hope to find employment here.

Good luck with that, as our downtown has more “For Rent” than “Job Opening” signs. The pleasant sidewalks I used to walk with my young children are now clogged with the unemployed and underemployed, who loiter here and there until the police come around to shoo them away from the respectable people. Pharmacies and specialty stores are shutting and reopening as tattoo parlors and booze sellers.

According to our local newspaper, 30% of the people in the shelters are working part-time or full-time, but still can’t afford to rent. The social services are struggling to find affordable solid housing for them, and shelter stays are limited to 90 days, so the dilapidated trailer parks and tent cities are seeing steady growth — even in the depths of winter.

From the Washington Examiner:

A camp of homeless residents are being evicted Monday from their mini tent city in the woods behind a Rockville U-Haul facility, following an assault that led police to the spot…

Three residents have been placed in shelters, according to Ahluwalia. Amber said she is staying in a shelter for victims of domestic abuse, where she can stay for up to 60 days. However, several of the camp residents have not left, and Amber said that she, too, might be back on the streets before long. “It’s very hard to recover from homelessness, and I don’t think I’m going to do it this time, frankly,” said Amber, who makes $10 an hour working 25 hours a week. She lost her job in 2009 and hasn’t been able to find full-time work since.

If you want a look at the realities of shelter life, Business Insider has a close-up view.