USA: From Hoovervilles to Trumpvilles, Homeless Crisis Deepens

Nearly a century ago, when the Great Depression descended on New York in 1929, Gotham, like cities around the country, sprouted Hoovervilles, homeless encampments. In New York, a dozen or so were in Central Park and dubbed “Hoover Valley,” “Shanty Town,” “Squatters Village,” “Forgotten Men’s Gulch” and “Rockside Inn.”

Other Manhattan encampments included “Hardlucksville,” the city’s largest encampment, at 10th Street on the East River, and “Camp Thomas Paine” in Riverside Park and the West 70s. Farther uptown, the homeless found residence in floating shanties along the Harlem River around 207th Street; at Camp Dyckman, which consisted mostly of World War I veterans; and at Marble Hill, just across the Spuyten Duyvil, where Sarah J. Atwood and her daughter, Mavis, ran a boxcar village.

The outer boroughs were also home to encampments. In Brooklyn, a large facility operated on Columbia Street, in Red Hook, and near today’s Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn Heights, some six hundred people lived in “Hoover City.” Writer Edward Newhouse lived for three weeks in a Queens encampment to do research for his novel You Can’t Live Here.

A new generation of homeless encampments – Trumpvilles – are spreading throughout the country.

In New York, they have popped up in each of the five boroughs as recent press reports indicate. Three examples are suggestive:

  • In Manhattan – there was a homeless encampment on Sixth Avenue between West 23rd and 24th Streets.
  • In Elmhurst, Queens – an original encampment of around 15 to 20 expanded to 60 and 70 people.
  • In Staten Island – an encampment sprouted outside the Richmond County Bank Ballpark in St. George, home of the Staten Island Yankees.

Throughout the nation, Trumpvilles are multiplying:

  • NPR reported in January — “Across California and other parts of the country, these growing homeless encampments evoke shantytown ‘Hoovervilles,’ where hundreds of thousands of destitute Americans lived during the Great Depression.”
  • In Berkeley, CA — Berkeley Fire Department doused a fire at the city’s largest encampment, at University Avenue just west of Interstate 80.
  • In Philadelphia, PA – there was an encampment on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and Ridge Avenue.
  • In Minnesota – homeless Native American men, women and families build a tent colony at the Wall of Forgotten Natives near Hiawatha and Franklin Avenues.
  • In Tacoma, WA – the city government reports: “… the number of homeless individuals exceeds the number of local available shelters. Finding immediate shelter options for people being displaced from encampments continues to be an ongoing challenge.
  • In Seattle, WA– an unmanaged encampment was recently removed in the area behind the Navigation Center on a public stairwell.

Taken from longer article at Counterpunch