Sign of the times: Jobless Pitch ‘Tent City’ in Sacramento

by on March 6, 2009 · 13 comments

in Civil Rights, Economy, Media, War and Peace

Tent City along river with Sacramento skyscappers in background. Tent City currently holds 1200 people, with 50 joining every week.

Editor: Part of what’s horribly interesting about this article is that we have to rely on the British press for coverage of this new development.

By Paul Thompson / Mail Online (London) / March 6, 2009

A century and a half ago it was at the centre of the Californian gold rush, with hopeful prospectors pitching their tents along the banks of the American River.  Today, tents are once again springing up in the city of Sacramento.

But this time it is for people with no hope and no prospects.  With America’s economy in freefall and its housing market in crisis, California’s state capital has become home to a tented city for the dispossessed.

Those who have lost their jobs and homes and have nowhere else to go are constructing makeshift shelters on the site, which covers several acres.  As many as 50 people a week are turning up and the authorities estimate that the tent city is now home to more than 1,200 people.

In a state more known for its fantastic wealth and the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, the images have shocked many Americans.  Conditions are primitive, with no water supply or proper sanitation. Many residents have to walk up to three miles to buy bottled water from petrol stations or convenience stores.

At other times, charity workers arrive to hand out free food and other supplies.
Joan Burke, who campaigns on behalf of the homeless, said the images of Americans living in tents would shock many.  ‘It should be an eye- opener for everybody,’ she said. ‘But we shouldn’t just be shocked, we should take action to change things, because it’s unacceptable.  ‘It is unacceptable that in this day and age we have gone back to a situation like we had during the Great Depression.’

As America’s most powerful state California had the same gross domestic output as Italy and Spain, but it has been among the hardest hit by the recession and housing crisis.  Foreclosure rates last year rocketed by 327 per cent, with up to 500 people a day losing their home.  Coupled with massive job cuts that have seen one in ten workers laid off, many people who once enjoyed a middle class existence are now forced into third world conditions.

Former car salesman Corvin and his wife Tena are among the newest residents of the tent city. The couple, who are in their fifties, lost their home and jobs around the same time.  With homeless shelters full in Sacramento, they had little choice but to use what savings they had left to buy a tent.  The couple admit they have yet to tell their grown-up children about their hand-to-mouth existence.  Tena said: ‘I have a 35-year-old son, and he doesn’t know. I call him, about once a month and on holidays, to let him know that I’m well and healthy.  ‘He would love me anyway, but I don’t want to worry him.’

The shame of Sacramento’s tent city was given a much wider airing after it was featured on the Oprah Winfrey show which is watched by more than 40million people a week.  Many of those who have found themselves homeless worked in the building trade.  But with no new home builds and as many as 80,000 people losing their job every month, there is little chance of employment. Governor Schwarzenegger last month approved a budget to address the state’s deficit, ending a three-month stalemate among lawmakers.
As well as increasing taxes, he has imposed drastic cuts in education, healthcare and services that will affect everyone living in the state.

Many of those living in the tent city are pinning their hopes on President Obama’s $787billion stimulus package which is aimed at rescuing the economy and creating jobs.  The President has also announced plans to save the homes of nine million people from foreclosure by restructuring their mortgage debt.


Shanty towns sprung up during the Great Depression as people lost their jobs and homes

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

lane tobias March 6, 2009 at 12:08 pm

from my personal experience working with the “down and out”, I have a feeling that San Diego is not far behind.

One plan of action is to write letters to the Mayor’s office urging him to utilize as much of the 17 million dollars we are receiving from the Fed. government earmarked for homelessness towards DIRECT services. The nonprofits, city, and county run agencies that are already in place represent excellent avenues to provide service to the homeless, so there really is no need to spend a chunk of that money on more administration. Let him know that this is a problem that will affect EVERYONE, especially when people start pitching tens downtown and all over San Diego.

As far as images go, this was disturbing, but it is indicative of the times people…


suellen haynes March 9, 2009 at 5:15 pm

Is there anywhere I can donate camping supplies, food, clothing and other misc. items. I live one hour from Sacramento. Thank you, Suellen


Katherine March 9, 2009 at 10:02 pm

Can anyone tell us if there are any legitimate organizations that are willing to help this particular tent city? There may be quite a lot of people who could willing to help. Thank you.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”


Julian March 11, 2009 at 9:37 am

Well, we deserved this, because we planned on putting rest of the world in exact same condition before we find that we’ve spent too much of our tax dollars in waging wars in countries we didnt want to care about.


rusty nail March 12, 2009 at 10:10 pm

a horrible sign of the times. is this where we are headed america? don’t let it happen – these people are your countrywomen and men.


APaycheckAway March 16, 2009 at 6:55 am

We should call these places “Obamavilles”


Ann March 17, 2011 at 3:10 am

Very naive comment. It doesn’t matter if anyone supports Obama or not. He has nothing to do with cause of the economy except he doesn’t know WHAT to do with to turn it around. He has a posh job, a good salary, so he loses the concept what’s happening out there.

The core cause for our situation originates with five letters: B U S H

If anyone thinks America is not broke, they have little grasp what the situation is. We’re in a really dangerous situation.

If its not turned around (which Obama is not doing for some reason) it will spin out of control beyond repair. We’re a runaway train right now with no driver. Obama needs to 1) stop outsourcing of jobs, 2) block import of 3rd world labor “skills” 3) add heavy import tariffs on Chinese goods. He doesn’t bother to do this.
When these 3 basic decisions are made, plus huge expense cuts are added to get out of debt, the country will be able to gradually get back on track. If they’re not made – well, prepare for the next third world because that is exactly where the U.S. will head.


OB Joe March 16, 2009 at 9:08 am

Hey paycheck – away with that thought. Sure, call them after the prez that created them – and that would be ol’ Bush Jr himself. So, call them Bushvilles or even W-villes. Obama was not even prez when the conditions that caused this economic recession were set up.

Remember the Hoovervilles – paycheck, I guess you think they should have been called Rooseveltvilles or FDR-villes?


mr fresh March 16, 2009 at 6:33 pm

here’s a story about a cheneyville much closer to san diego..,1,7073495.story


Frank Gormlie March 16, 2009 at 8:37 pm

Thanks mr fresh – we actually posted the article that you sent us tonight. The Rag will continue to post articles about ‘tent cities’ that we hear about.


Ann March 16, 2011 at 4:45 pm

This is the after effect of Bush’s presidency, wasting horribly in excess on his sham war, on medicare and opening unrestricted free to China killing our industry, while allowing jobs to be outsourced. He should be tried for treason against his country. Yet for some reason he can enjoy his retirement without any consequences for the horrible situation he has caused for this country.

It is so upsetting to see this happening! I am working on a career change right now which I hope will enable me to help these people with a real and tangible solution to these horrific problems. No one should be forced to live in a tent in America in this day and age.


Ann March 17, 2011 at 2:53 am

I have to tell you people to be prepared because the economy will dip even further: this has only been the appetizer.

A second major housing crash is expected this year. It will escalate into a tidal wave all through mid 2011-2014 and will wipe out 70% of Option ARM mortgages into foreclosures. Its bad. If you have a job, do everything you can to drastically cut any excessive costs and start saving *NOW*. We’re only a few months away from it. Be careful what banks you keep your monies in, and make sure your bank is not a huge mortgage lenders with outstanding debts, because banks will collapse this year and the next, and you can lose all your money.

What does it mean for the rest of the country when these Option ARM mortgages fail? It means ordinary mortgages can as much as DOUBLE in monthly premiums. Even people who don’t have Option ARM mortgages simply wont be able to afford theirs. It will be a huge financial collapse.

The unemployment rate will hit the roof. It’s already real bad and double to what official records claim. Social welfare benefits make up 35 percent of wages and salaries this year. That makes unemployment far higher than 10%+.

So, please, prepare yourselves and live extremely frugal and save whatever you can. This crisis will last for about 8-9 years before we see improvements, depending on Washington of course.


Rick Ward March 17, 2011 at 5:32 am

It seems as though quite a few people think The President is really the Emperor.Keep in mind The Houe of Representatives is in Republician hands,not to mention the Senate rules allowing the fillerbuster.So when lookings for who to blame,we need to look in the mirror.We can’t even get a decent field for The O.B. Planning Board.Maybe We can fix this in 19 months when you all vote again.


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