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FDL Late Nite — Bushvilles: The Latest Fashion In Meltdown Housing


Reading a CNN report on a homeless woman in California (video here), I came across this:

Harvey now works part time for $8 an hour, and she draws Social Security to help make ends meet. But she still cannot afford an apartment, and so every night she pulls into a gated parking lot to sleep in her car, along with other women who find themselves in a similar predicament.

There are 12 parking lots across Santa Barbara that have been set up to accommodate the growing middle-class homelessness. These lots are believed to be part of the first program of its kind in the United States, according to organizers.

The lots open at 7 p.m. and close at 7 a.m. and are run by New Beginnings Counseling Center, a homeless outreach organization.

It is illegal for people in California to sleep in their cars on streets. New Beginnings worked with the city to allow the parking lots as a safe place for the homeless to sleep in their vehicles without being harassed by people on the streets or ticketed by police.

Well, we all know that California is usually several steps ahead of the rest of the country in fashions — cultural, economic, and otherwise. I fully expect we’ll be seeing similar programs cropping up wherever the Big Shitpile is hitting the fan, compliments of the economic stewardship of George W. Bush & Co.

Can’t afford a home? Well, you can take up residence in your car in a parking lot at night, just like these fine middle-class housewives do.

These transient homes for the once-prosperous deserve their own name, too. I propose we call them Bushvilles.

You all remember Hoovervilles from your history books, don’t you?

They were products of an eerily similar economic policy: favor the wealthy, soak the poor, and screw the middle, then let God sort it out:


A Hooverville was the popular name for a shanty town, examples of which were found in many United States communities during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The name Hooverville has also been used to describe the Tent Cities commonly found in America.

The word "Hooverville" derives from the name of the President of the United States at the beginning of the Depression, Herbert Hoover. They used Hoover’s name because they were frustrated and disappointed with his involvement in the relief effort for the Depression. In addition to financial troubles during the Depression, a drought in the Mississippi Valley forced farmers to auction their land for taxes and reside in Hoovervilles.

These settlements were often formed in horrible neighborhoods or desolate areas and consisted of dozens or hundreds of shacks and tents that were temporary residences of those left unemployed and homeless by the Depression. People slept in anything from open piano crates to the ground. Authorities did not officially recognize these Hoovervilles and occasionally removed the occupants for technically trespassing on private lands, but they were frequently tolerated out of necessity.

There’s certainly no shortage of parking lots these days. And no shortage of the newly homeless. In a world in which economic failure is just a matter of survival of the fittest, the two obviously go together well — though I do wonder what happens when the occupants can no longer afford the gas to drive their cars, either. Most likely those parking-lot slots will become semi-permanent homes, and the lots themselves little cities.

Bushvilles. Has a certain ring, doesn’t it?

[A hat tip to sadlyyes.]

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David Neiwert

David Neiwert

David Neiwert is the managing editor of Firedoglake. He's a freelance journalist based in Seattle and the author/editor of the blog Orcinus. He also is the author of Strawberry Days: How Internment Destroyed a Japanese American Community (Palgrave/St. Martin's Press, June 2005), as well as Death on the Fourth of July: The Story of a Killing, a Trial, and Hate Crime in America (Palgrave/St. Martin's, 2004), and In God's Country: The Patriot Movement and the Pacific Northwest (1999, WSU Press). His reportage for on domestic terrorism won the National Press Club Award for Distinguished Online Journalism in 2000.