Shantytown in Athens

The sounds of traffic surround the handful of shanties nestled at the corner of Lexington Road and Athens Perimeter.  

A canopied trail leads to the Athenian shantytown.  Plywood nailed to a simple frame make the huts that a portion of Athens’ homeless calls home.  This impoverished community lives with no electricity or running water. 

 Recent job crises and housing failures dump more people into tent cities across America, making modern-day hoovervilles, according to a New York Times report.  These shantytowns sprout across America, rooting themselves under power lines, near highways, in public parks and on fair grounds.

 The national trend of swelling and sprouting shantytowns foreshadow a growth to Athens’ Tent City.

Unlike most shantytowns, Athens’ Tent City is not an illegal encampment.   Homeless have camped on this private property – open to the homeless – for 17 years, freeing itself of any state regulation. 

More than 500 homeless people in Athens-Clarke County make up one of Georgia top homeless populations, according to Channel 5 News.

 Athens Area Homeless Shelter and other homeless assistance programs provide refuge for Athens’ homeless population.

 Athens’ hospitals spent at least $12.4 million on homeless patients in 2005, according to Athens-Clarke County Department of Human and Economic Development. 

 However, Athens does very little to improve living conditions for the homeless huddled at Tent City, Ronald Wynn a local advocate for the homeless said in an Athens Banner-Herald report. 

 “They need counseling to help their sense of self-worth,” Wynn said.  “Yes, they have to want to be helped, but if you don’t seek to find out if they want it, you will never know. There’s no liaison between the community and the people in the mud.”

 Crouched on a cot in one of Tent City ’s shanties, a homeless lady bursts out with a string of profanity as she expresses her disappointment in Athens ’ efforts to help their impoverished state. 

 “There are a few people who bring up peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and water,” she said ungratefully as she put tobacco in rolling paper.  “We need supplies.  We need batteries, blankets, fuel.”

 

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