Thursday, June 4, 2009

In its new issue, The Nation looks back at Tent City.

In its June 22, 2009, issue, one of our country's major political magazines, The Nation, deftly looks back at Sacramento's Tent City in a lengthy piece "Tales of Tent City," while tangentially musing about tent encampments and homelessness, generally, and assessing the near future of homelessness in California.

With reflective time since the tarps were rolled up like scrolls, The Nation has done one thing almost every other media source has failed at: getting the facts mostly right.

Here, one paragraph that says the most:

In the end, Sacramento dealt with its Tent City with more compassion than can usually be expected. "If they had a great big rug they could sweep us under somewhere, they would," predicted Karen Hersh, and she was right. The broom, fortunately, came in the form of temporary fixes, not arrests. The city scrambled to raise money for forty additional units of subsidized housing (few of which were ready before Tent City was cleared) and fifty additional shelter beds, which quickly filled. Local advocates for the homeless had vowed civil disobedience if any arrests were made, so to avoid an embarrassing confrontation, the city came up with motel vouchers for the last few dozen holdouts. "The bulk of the people," though, said Loaves and Fishes' Joan Burke, "just dispersed to more hidden camps." By April 20, everyone was gone.
An assessment of things near the end of the article seems quite right:

The federal stimulus package will give California $189 million in homelessness prevention funding and another $100 million in community service block grants that local governments can use for homeless services. The Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act, passed in May, authorizes another $2.2 billion nationwide. But as the feds give with one hand, the state takes away with the other, and no one at any level of government is attempting to tackle the systemic roots of homelessness, or to reconsider housing as something more vital to human dignity than market forces allow.
At the top of the article, written by Ben Ehrenreich, we are told "Research support was provided by the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute." Time, and the funds to investigate and get facts right appear to be the factors that resulted in this piece being in accord with the truth of things, something Big Media in the US and internationally didn't have and couldn't accomplish in the news blitz of Feb-Mar-Apr. Particularly disappointing has been the bad coverage of Tent City and homelessness, generally, by the Bee and SN&R. Neither of those two news sources has chosen to do a Tent City retrospective.

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