Warehouse G

Plight Of The Homeless

Evicted From “Tent City” – How Low Can We Go?

By James Donahue

The police this week moved in on a gathering of about 400 homeless people squatting in tents, cars and makeshift shelter just outside Ontario, California, ordering all but 170 to leave town. City officials said they had to do it for health and safety reasons.

The story of the mass eviction was covered by Los Angeles Times reporter David Kelly who talked to many of the 230 tenants facing what, for them, appeared to be the saddest eviction of them all. They have been ordered to move out of a slum park for the homeless because the town says it doesn’t have room for them.

The incident on March 16 has provided a public glimpse of just how severe the current housing and economic collapse has been for an untold number of Americans who have lost their jobs, their homes and are now left with no place to go.

In fairness, the story said the City of Ontario opened the camp near the local airport last year to give the town’s growing number of homeless residents a place to camp without being harassed. The land provided tents, toilets and water.

The problem has been that word quickly spread that such a facility existed, and the numbers of people using the facility grew from 20 to 400 in nine months. They say people came from all over the country. Town officials said they decided to not only stop the influx of homeless, but to limit occupancy to only established residents of Ontario.

Kelly wrote that “dozens of Ontario police and code enforcement officers descended upon the homeless encampment . . . separating those who could stay from those to be evicted. Large, often confused, crowds formed ragged lines behind police barricades where officers handed out color-coded wristbands.”

People who got blue bands were established Ontario residents and would be allowed to stay. Orange bands were given to people who claimed local residency but had no proof of it. They were given time to provide proof or leave. White bands were issued to those who were evicted. They were given one week to move on down the road.

The problem is that no other city is offering a place for the homeless to gather. For them it means finding shelter where ever they can, sometimes under bridges or in empty buildings. Nobody wants the homeless yet they are growing in number with each passing day.

Even before the mass eviction the police moved out parolees found living in the park, and towed off about 20 dilapidated motor homes. The city also has issued a list of safety rules, including a ban on pets, which has also upset occupants.

I will go to jail before they take my dog,” one woman said. “That’s a part of me as much as anything. The dogs are as homeless as we are.”

Blog writer in the Daily Kos, Jeffery Feldman, brought our attention to this story and posted the following thought:

The images and the stories are heartbreaking. If ever there was a reason to let go of market orthodoxy, and to re-embrace the American spirit of making things better by the most pragmatic means possible – this is it. Make it work better, period. No more ideology; no more grand theories about freedom from government; just come together to help people before we lose a generation to this mounting economic tragedy.”