Tent cities spring up across country as homelessness soars. From:Corazon Esguerra, The Party for Socialism and Liberation As the economic crisis worsens and bailouts go to the wealthy bankers on Wall Street, working-class suffering grows. PSL member Stephen Hinze speaks to a tent city resident in Ontario, Calif. For months, workers have been losing their jobs and homes in record numbers. Some of the most oppressed sectors of the working class are turning to "tent cities," shantytowns and makeshift parking lots that have been popping up around the country in the past year. In Santa Barbara, Calif.âone of the richest cities in the United States, where homes are valued at an average of $1 million eachâresidents have become homeless within the last year due to the plummeting housing market. Parking lots have been set up all over Santa Barbara so that the homeless have a place where they can sleep in their cars. At one of these sites, a woman named Bonnee sleeps in her 4x4 truck along with only basic necessary personal documents, some books and blankets. She retains a gym membership so she has a place to shower. Bonnee, a former real estate agent, was working only about a year ago but has since fallen on hard times due to the mortgage crisis and has been unable to keep her house. Barbara Harvey, 67, and her two dogs spend their nights in the same parking lot. Harvey used to work in housing finance, but after the housing collapse, she lost both her job and her home. The parking lots only operate from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., and public restroom facilities are closed at that time as well. Because of this, Harvey does not drink any liquids after she arrives."There are going to be lots of homeless individuals, " Harvey said. "Weâre in an awful mess economically. I donât think weâve seen half of whatâs going to happen in this country." According to New Beginnings, the organization that runs the makeshift parking lots in Santa Barbara, some 55 people live in a dozen parking lots. Organizer Nancy Kapp says there is a waiting list for the lots, and many people call every day to be added to the list. "These people have worked their whole lives to have a house and now itâs crumbling and itâs in ashes and how devastating is that?" she says."Itâs not an American dream, itâs an American nightmare." (BBC News Sept. 27) Kicked out of homes, kicked out of tents Elsewhere in the country, community organizers have established shantytowns that provide safe and sanitary living conditions for people who have been left homeless from evictions and unemployment. In South Seattle, Nickelsville is one such place. The residents are struggling to keep Nickelsville in the face of the anti-homeless policies of Mayor Greg Nickels. "Nickelodeons, " as the tent city residents call themselves, are organizing to fight back by staging protests and speaking out. Nickels claims to be spearheading a "10-year plan to end homelessness. " To that end, he has directed the city police and maintenance workers to clear outdoor encampments. Several times in the past year, city workers have dismantled large encampments and confiscated the personal property of camp residents. One man, Isaac Palmer, was run over and killed during a sweep. "Weâll treat it like we will any other encampment, and that is, weâll post it and weâll let people know that this is inappropriate to be sleeping in an encampment thatâs not authorized," said Nickels. On the Nickelsville website, organizers explain: "Sleeping outside is dangerous; unfortunately there are not enough indoor shelters. There is safety in numbers; there is power in being organized. â¦ Mayor Nickelsâ edict to systematically drive people out of their encampments and to destroy their property was the trigger for the present crisis. It is only befitting that our shantytown be named in honor of Mayor Nickels and his âhumaneâ treatment of the homeless." In Ontario, Calif., local officials have set up a tent city near an airport as a feeble and temporary attempt to tackle the issue of homelessness due to the increasing rate of evictions. Restrictive and repressive rules have been placed on the tent city. Children under the age of 18 years are not allowed in the area and residents are not allowed to have any pets. As a result, all mothers had to place their children either with friends or into the foster care system. Many residents who had already given up their children were forced to give up any pets to local shelters. Many of the residents of the tent city were placed there by the Ontario Police Department. As more workers moved into the camp, police and city officials began to routinely enter the premises and interrogate residents about their ties to the city of Ontario. Those who could not prove ties to Ontario were told they had to leave the tent city and have been evicted from the camp. Stop foreclosures and evictions now! Party for Socialism and Liberation candidates Steven Hinze (Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, 4th District), Lucilla Esguerra (California State Assembly, 48th District) and Crystal Kim (Council of the District of Columbia, at-large) visited the Ontario tent city in March and were able to interview some of the residents. Ernesto, a resident of Tent City, lost his home to foreclosure. "I lost my daughter, my daughter died," he said. "She was sick and we could not pay our medical bills and then we lost our home. I was laid off from my job as a teacher and I never thought I would find myself homeless." "I have been kicked out several times, but I continue to return," told Patty, another Tent City resident. Every year, 3.5 million people in the United States are homeless for all or part of the year. As of October 2007, 17.4 million houses stood vacant (MSN Money, Oct. 4, 2007). A situation where the numbers of people in need of housing grows amidst more and more empty homes is an absurd tragedy that is only possible under the "profit over people" capitalist system. The La Riva/Puryear campaign stands side by side with workers in their struggle against the landlords and real estate speculators who push people onto the streets to safeguard profits. Our campaign calls for an immediate moratorium on all foreclosures and evictions. Assistance must be provided to homeowners and tenants at risk of losing their homes. The La Riva/Puryear campaign calls on the government to declare homelessness as a national emergency and use the millions of vacant housing units to immediately house the homeless. Housing is a human right!