Modern day Hoovervilles

I wanted to do a huge, comprehensive post on the tent cities which are cropping up all across America, as more and more people find themselves out of work and unable to afford traditional housing now that our economy has fallen off the proverbial cliff. To be quite honest, however, I’m not up to the task right now. It’s too depressing. So, instead, I give you this scene from one of my favorite films, My Man Godfrey, which is kind of related. The plot, you see, to a great extent, is about the “forgotten men” who found themselves living in shanty towns of America, known as Hoovervilles, during the Great Depression (not to be confused with the considerably less depressing Hootervilles).

And, while we’re on the subject of the unemployment, here’s a clip from Paul Krugman’s column in today’s New York Times:

…To see how bad the numbers are, consider this: The administration’s budget proposals, released less than two weeks ago, assumed an average unemployment rate of 8.1 percent for the whole of this year. In reality, unemployment hit that level in February — and it’s rising fast.

Employment has already fallen more in this recession than in the 1981-82 slump, considered the worst since the Great Depression. As a result, Mr. Obama’s promise that his plan will create or save 3.5 million jobs by the end of 2010 looks underwhelming, to say the least. It’s a credible promise — his economists used solidly mainstream estimates of the impacts of tax and spending policies. But 3.5 million jobs almost two years from now isn’t enough in the face of an economy that has already lost 4.4 million jobs, and is losing 600,000 more each month…

If only we could invest in Hoovervilles somehow… That’s where the growth is in today’s economy… Maybe we should pool our money and buy stock in a tent company.

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  1. Posted March 9, 2009 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know anyone living in a tent city yet, but I imagine it’s just a matter of time.

  2. Brackinald Achery
    Posted March 9, 2009 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

    Someone explain to me the value of living in a tent city, as opposed to just a tent in the middle of the woods. Wouldn’t it be wiser to tent somewhere where you don’t compete with a hundred other families for scant resources? Or do they rely on delivered resources which tend to only get delivered to concentrated groups of needy people? I only ask in the event that it might be me one day.

  3. Posted March 10, 2009 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    I think people long for community, especially when times are bad… You know, “safety in numbers,” and all of that… And, at a more basic level, it’s probably what these people know. Many of them have probably never lived outside of the suburbs.

    As someone mentioned to my yesterday, it’s probably the people who presently have jobs on the bottom rung of society who will find themselves in tent cities, as they’re replaced by overqualified people who can’t find jobs in what they used to do.

  4. Paw
    Posted March 10, 2009 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    More alarming than the growth of tent cities is the fact that hemlines are dropping.

    I’m generally a non-interventionist, but Obama needs to address this immediately.

  5. Oliva
    Posted March 10, 2009 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    Ypsilanti had (has?) its own “river encampments,” and I guess one advantage for that group living together during the cold season is that several people can go out and collect wood (sometimes snatching it from people’s wood piles, just a few logs at a time stuffed into a duffel bag), while someone else keeps the fire going and shoos away interlopers. Or so it went a couple winters ago. But that’s a river encampment and not necessarily a tent city. There did seem to be some power in numbers, as opposed to setting up a lone tent in the woods and making it on one’s own.

  6. 'Ff'lo
    Posted March 10, 2009 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    Ooh, I love that movie. This’d be a good time for it make a tour of the revival circuit. If there are still enough cinematic revival houses to be considered a (loose) circuit.

  7. Paw
    Posted March 10, 2009 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    What will be call these places? Clearly we can’t call them Hoovervilles. How about Bush Cities? Someone needs to name them before someone comes along and attempts to link them to Obama.

  8. Fflo
    Posted March 10, 2009 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    Ooh, I love that movie, too. This’d be a great time for it to do a tour of the revival circuit. If there are enough cinematic revival houses to qualify as a (loose) circuit.

  9. Mike
    Posted March 10, 2009 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    There was just a special on tent cities last night on the Evening News with Brian Williams. All around Sacramento. The site they profiled had over 500 people and are gaining almost 50 new residents per day. Crazy stuff.

    I know it sounds crazy, but when I watched that, it finally hit me how bad it is.

  10. Posted March 10, 2009 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    The economy is spiraling of control as thousands more become homeless everyday! How long before you and your loved ones fine themselves evicted with no shelter or place to call home?


    Just because you’ve lost your bricks-and-sticks home doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice comfort and style! At Luxury Sultan Dream Tents Superstore we offer a of full range of deluxe fabricated portable dwellings for every lifestyle need .

    Remember, just because lost your home, doesn’t mean you have to lose your style or status!

    We accept all major credit cards and flexible rate loans are available.

  11. Posted March 10, 2009 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, my last comment left off the “Maxine” on my name. Be sure to ask for Maxine. If you do, I’ll throw in a free hookah with any purchase!

  12. Posted March 10, 2009 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    I was going to make a joke about Water Street being available for Ypsi’s tent-city, and it would still somewhat fit the vision, just substituted for high-end condos, but really this is sad, scary stuff. If it’s possible to see the positive out of what’s going on, it’s too love each other and be thankful for what we have. Maybe if and when we recover we’ll learn to be wise with our money and focus on needs over wants, like the Greatest Generation did.

  13. Ol' E Cross
    Posted March 10, 2009 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

    The saddest thing to me is the number of folks that don’t seem to have a social safety net. I can easily think of a couple dozen friends and family that would let us sleep on their sofas before we had to hit the streets. There is something to be said about staying close to home.

  14. Tom
    Posted March 11, 2009 at 12:50 am | Permalink

    Who ever needed a social safety net as long as the lawn was manicured and the affluent suburban nightmare loomed above all our heads? All we ever needed was our bootstraps, and that’s all we’re going to have with which to fend off the wolves in the board rooms.

    Take that.

  15. Posted March 11, 2009 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

    Did anyone watch the movie on YouTube? It really is a great film. It succeeds as a comedy, but, at the same time, it makes a statement. That’s not an easy thing to accomplish, to walk that line… Along those lines, I’d also suggest Sullivan’s Travels, another great film from the era.

  16. Posted March 11, 2009 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    Photos of the Sacramento tent city can be found here.

  17. Ana
    Posted March 26, 2009 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    This all happened before, and we learned nothing. Greedy business men and people who shop for the cheapest goods drove jobs overseas. No jobs, no house payments. No house payments, no money for banks or insurance. No money circulating spells disaster as the stock market falls. Bush, that idiot, knew nothing of history only of greed. As all the bad things happened to jobs, we had no leadership, just rich old men in denial. I saw this coming since Reagan. Thanks to all of you who voted for those conservative morons who diverted your attention with religion. Who’s fault?

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