It's Not Just Occupiers Living In Tent Cities

Camp Take Notice is a tent community of homeless people living in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Michigan Radio's Mercedes Mejia and Meg Cramer visited the camp just before the first snow fall.

Camp Take Notice is a tent community of homeless people living in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This video, filmed by Michigan Radio's Mercedes Mejia and Meg Cramer was taken early in January, before the first snow.

Just off the side of a motorway on the fringes of the picturesque town of Ann Arbor, Michigan, a mismatched collection of 30 tents tucked in the woods has become home - home to those who are either unemployed, or whose wages are so low that they can no longer afford to pay rent.

There are single men and women living in the tents, as well as families with children.

The BBC visited camp Take Notice recently, for a documentary on poverty in America. This video that I posted just last week is a portion of that documentary that included brief interviews with a group of children, including the withdrawn and sad little girl whose family had been forced to eat rats because they had nothing else.

The BBC documentary included a report on the Michigan tent city:

Conditions are unhygienic. There are no toilets and electricity is only available in the one communal tent where the campers huddle around a wood stove for warmth in the heart of winter.

Ice weighs down the roofs of tents, and rain regularly drips onto the sleeping campers' faces.

Tent cities have sprung up in and around at least 55 American cities - they represent the bleak reality of America's poverty crisis.

According to census data, 47 million Americans now live below the poverty line - the most in half a century - fuelled by several years of high unemployment.

One of the largest tented camps is in Florida and is now home to around 300 people. Others have sprung up in New Jersey and Portland.

In the Ann Arbor camp, Alana Gehringer, 23, has had a hacking cough for the last four months.

"The black mould - it was on our pillows, it was on our blankets, we were literally rubbing our faces in it sleeping every night," she said of wintering in a tent.

The camp is run by the residents themselves, with the help of a local charity group. Calls have come in from the hospital emergency room, the local police and the local homeless shelter to see if they can send in more.

"Last night, for example, we got a call saying they had six that couldn't make it into the shelter and... they were hoping that we could place them... So we usually get calls, around nine or 10 a night," said Brian Durance, a camp organiser.

Before the economic downturn, many of these people lived comfortably in middle class homes before they were forced to turn to homeless shelters, motels, and tent cities.

About Diane Sweet

Diane Sweet's picture
Senior Editor, Lives in a gerrymandered district in Michigan.

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