Tent City Redux

by Jim Washburn

Homeless Go Home! That’s pretty much the message in Ontario these days, where March 24 was the city-imposed moving day for hundreds of homeless persons living in the ramshackle Tent City in a field near Ontario Airport. Any residence-less residents who couldn’t provide proof of having lived in Ontario—a hangdog expression evidently wasn’t sufficient—were asked to move on. The city was nice enough about it, even offering cab rides or airfare home for some, though home to most probably meant some other patch of weeds or a freeway overpass.

tent

That’s the city’s problem: other cities weren’t putting out even the threadbare welcome mat that Ontario did, so homeless were pouring in from other towns, beyond the capacity of the city, charity or church groups to provide for them.

FourStory’s Jim Washburn and cameraman Gary Chan visited Tent City in January—you’ll find the video here—and returned on March 30 to see how residents were faring after the exodus the week before. We looked for the people we’d spoken with in January, but evidently only one still remained, and she expected to be moving on once the city began enforcing its “no pets” rule.

The main field had been cleared and graded, with posts in place for a fence that will contain the remaining homeless when they’re moved back into it. They’re temporarily in adjacent fields, where things looked much the same as they had before, plus three months of too much wind and rain and not enough of anything else. An inverted American flag flew next to one tent, above a placard that read “Camp Purgatory.”

Jim Washburn has written for the Los Angeles Times, the Orange County Register, the OC Weekly, various MSN sites and just about anybody else willing to trade a paycheck for a pulse.
jim@fourstory.org

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