New HoovervillesMarch 5, 2009 at 11:14 am | Posted in News | 2 Comments
In our book The Scavengers’ Manifesto, we wrote about “Hoovervilles”: During the Great Depression, tens of thousands of newly displaced jobless and homeless people erected shantytowns, creating slapdash temporary houses from scavenged scrapwood, scrap metal, cardboard, crates, bricks and other junk. Named after then-President Herbert Hoover, these sad testaments to economic crisis sprawled from coast to coast. At its height, Seattle’s Hooverville (see picture at left) had more than 2,000 shacks. When we wrote that portion of our chapter on the history of scavenging, it was mid-2008 and the current crisis was well in the future, as yet undreamed-of. We mused about whether such things could ever happen again, whether a time could come when Americans would have to build new Hoovervilles.
That time has come. “Sprawling across the skyline, this is the modern-day tent city which has returned to haunt America,” we read in the Daily Mail, beside grim photographs of tents and huts made of wooden pallets lined up along a riverbank. “With its ramshackle tents and flimsy box dwellings, the site in Sacramento, California, is reminiscent of the shanty towns of the Great Depression. Many of the inhabitants are victims of the economic crisis, who have suddenly found themselves unemployed and homeless for the first time.
“The settlements, dubbed Hoovervilles after Herbert Hoover who was blamed for the 1929 crash, are gradually growing in size and spreading across the States as the current downturn continues. It is unclear how many people are now living on similar sites but the figure is likely to number in the tens of thousands.”
Will those settlements be called something else this time?