New ‘Occupy’ tent camps are popping up as quickly as US authorities can dismantle them. But some encampments have been around for much longer, and the people there have felt abandoned for years.
Tent cities of outrage are popping up all across the US over the last months, less visible to the public eye and much quieter.
One such tent city of hopelessness has been around for half a decade. This is RT’s third visit in about two years to a village tucked away in the woods. The number of homeless turning to the camp for hospitality keeps growing. The population of the tent city has tripled since it was first set up.
The place is home to about 70 homeless people who have nowhere else to go. One third of them are women, all feeling ashamed to leave their tents in the presence of a camera.
The mood in the tent camp has become increasingly politicized over the last year.
“The politicians and the government has not protected the American people. They’ve allowed outsourcing to run rampant, and it’s benefiting companies. Corporations are making more money than they’ve ever made before,” community leader Steven Brigham told RT. “The average American worker, citizen, is suffering at the expense of the agenda of the politicians.”
Forty-six-year-old Angelo Villanueva, with a love for Kung Fu, lost everything in the recession and has never found a full-time job again.
“It seems to be a growing trend, unfortunately,” he says. “The politicians better take note and try to stop their bickering and do something to stop this, or slow it down, or make it better.”
A bricklayer for two decades, Angelo calls himself a victim of the economy and calls the encampment home. So does Charles Errickson, homeless for the past two years. He used to play the harmonica, but no longer.
“There might be a certain degree of depression that might set in,” he says. “Just the whole situation, especially now, when it’s getting cooler out and the days are shorter.”
As if the sorrow of these people was not enough, officials have been trying to evict the homeless out of the camp.
“They try to force out the poor,” Steven Brigham explains. “I call it discrimination by design, for the sake of pushing the poor out and encouraging the wealthier, the people with money, to move into your town.”
Wealth inequality has been at the root of the anger for the OWS protesters. But some of these homeless people seem a far cry from the demonstrators.
“I support them, but our situation is a lot different,” Angelo Villanueva says. “We are homeless. We have nowhere to sleep. I am sure they have places to go when they are done [with] their little rally.”
“We’ve got our own occupy movement in Lakewood. It’s more of an occupy movement out of necessity,” Brigham added.
Those who volunteer to help at the camp are not wealthy. Like Donald, who is an artist on a disability pension. He was also broke once. The neglect of the homeless is no surprise to him.
“Quite frankly, they don’t want to know that these people are here, because they are ugly, they are faceless, they are nameless,” Donald Daily told RT.
Many residents of the tent city used to blame themselves for their misfortune, but with 3.5 million Americans experiencing homelessness every year, or over 700,000 people on any given night, their message for politicians has changed.
“Open your eyes. All this help that we give out all over the world, we need help here,” the tent city cook David Jones explains.
As night settles, help is far from these people. All they have left are their roosters that live in their trees to keep them company. But each homeless resident faces a hard truth by himself.