Monday, August 20, 2012

Is plumbing what makes Americans "housed"?

The Seattle Times reports that residents of the Nickelsville tent city have been where they are for 15 months.

In the online edition, this photo of a mother and son at their home is captioned this way:
"Diane Fillmore with her son Trent, 13, in front of their sleeping shelter, one of about a dozen portable structures at Nickelsville built to give families more protection than tents. Seattle officials are divided over how to regulate tent encampments and even whether they should play a role in providing emergency shelter."
And this is from an opening caption to the article itself:
"Residents of the tent encampment Nickelsville have been living for 15 months near West Marginal Way without electricity, running water or plumbing."
This and another site are called "homeless encampments."

Then it's explained that the residents carry water, they improvise sanitation, volunteers help. But it's all expensive, "untenable." One City Council member says, "Tents aren't a safe or healthy long-term solution. It's not something we should be facilitating or presenting as if it were a solution." But everyone agrees there isn't enough "housing" available, and "Most shelters accept only women and children or single men, not intact families and no pets."

So in what sense is Nickelsville not a neighborhood, a village, housing? How is it different from the border-area colonias, which in some cases lack plumbing but still are understood to be towns?

When is the line crossed into de facto neighborhood status? And when does that line deserve respect?

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