It’s time for all of us to wake up and take notice


Camp Take Notice is an unsanctioned, organized tent city located in one of Michigan’s most prosperous and vibrant communities, Ann Arbor.   According to researcher Andrew Heben’s article in the most recent edition of Planning magazine,

“More than two dozen tent cities were documented in local newspapers between 2007 and 2010.”

Mr. Heben categorizes tent cities in the article as follows:,

 “Generally, tent cities can be categorized based on the level of organization and status of legality – they can be organized or unorganized and sanctioned or unsanctioned. Unorganized tent cities consist of people living next to each other who have nowhere else to go – an every-man-for-himself approach. But in organized examples like CTN [Camp Take Notice], a community forms its own self-governing process. Unsanctioned tent cities exist informally, squatting on public or private land, while sanctioned ones have been formally accepted by a local government.”

The following weblink to his map of tent cities shows they have developed across the country, including in Hawaii. I heartily concur with Mr. Heben’s following comment from the Planning article,

 “As planners, we should make a greater effort to include the needs and concerns of members of tent cities in our plans. At the same time, we must be careful not to further isolate these communities or infringe to far on their autonomy in the process.”

As citizens of the United States, the fact that some of our fellow citizens must turn to tent cities for housing and survival is a terrible commentary about the state of our national priorities.  As long as we, as a nation, continue to place profits and self-interest ahead of the well-being of each and every person, then it is unlikely tent cities will disappear from the landscape anytime soon – other than by harassment and bulldozers.

But, sweeping tent cities under the proverbial rug does not solve the problem, it only hides it from view so we do not have to face the fact that there is something wrong with a system that disses the least of us. Our society will be judged for its treatment of the poor, the helpless, the homeless, the weak, and the least fortunate – perhaps the old adage, “therefore, but for the grace of God go I,” needs to be refreshed in our collective minds far more often.

More information on tent cities in the United States can be found at


This entry was posted in cities, homelessness, land use, planning, poverty and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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