From the New York Times 26th March 2009 FRESNO, Calif. — (see Madrid at the end)
As the operations manager of an outreach centre for the homeless here, Paul Stack is used to seeing people down on their luck. What he had never seen before was people living in tents and lean-tos along side the railway line lot across from the centre.
“They just popped up about 18 months ago,” Mr. Stack said. “One day it was empty. The next day, there were people living there.”
Like a dozen or so other cities across the nation, Fresno is dealing with an unhappy déjà vu: the arrival of modern-day illegal encampments of homeless people that are a reminder of the Depression-era shanty towns. These shanties have recently appeared in many cities. But Fresno is a bit different because of the amount of seasonal agricultural work in the area, low level homelessness has been a seasonal happening for many years. but the recession has caused it to grow from hitchhikers to truck drivers to electricians. City officials say they have three major encampments near downtown and smaller settlements along two highways. All told, as many 2,000 people are homeless here, according to Gregory Barfield, the city’s homeless prevention and policy manager, who said that drug use, prostitution and violence were all too common in the encampments.
The growing encampments led the city to place portable toilets and security guards near one area known as New Jack City, named after a dark and drug-filled 1991 movie. But that just attracted more homeless people. On a recent afternoon, nobody seemed thrilled to be living in New Jack City, a filthy collection of rain- and wind-battered tents in a garbage-strewn lot. Several weary-looking residents sat on decaying sofas as a pair of pit bulls chained to a fence howled.
Northwest of New Jack City sits a somewhat less grim encampment. called Taco Flats because of the large number of Latino residents, many of whom were drawn to Fresno on the promise of agricultural jobs, which have dried up in the face of the poor economy and a three-year drought. Guillermo Flores, unable to find regular work, has for the last 8 months collected cans, recycling them for $5 to $10 a day, and lived in a hand-built, three-room shack, a home that he takes pride in, with a door, clean sheets on his bed and a bowl full of fresh apples in his propane-powered kitchen area.”
Dozens of homeless men and women here have found more organized shelter at the Village of Hope, a collection of 8-by-10-foot storage sheds built by the non-profit group Poverello House and overseen by Mr. Stack. Planted in a former junkyard behind a chain-link fence, each unit contains two cots, sleeping bags and a solar-powered light. Doug Brown, a freelance electrical engineer, said he had discovered the Village of Hope while unemployed a few years back and had returned after losing his job in October.
During the day, the camp can seem peaceful. American flags fly over some shanties, and neighbours greet one another. Some feed pets, while others build fires and chat.
“We got veterans out here; we got people with heart, proud to be who they are,” Mr. Kent said. “Regardless of living situations, it doesn’t change the heart. There’s some good people out here, really good people.”
But the danger after dark is real. One resident who moved to Taco flats, lost an eye after being shot in the face years ago, said she had seen two people killed in New Jack City.


Madrid to dismantle shanty towns. Tuesday, November 4th 2008

The mayor of Madrid Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón has announced a €109.8 million plan to dismantle four shanty towns on the outskirts of the city and relocate the 499 families currently living there. Financed jointly by the local and regional Madrid governments, the project is part of the mayor’s long-term clean-up plan, which aims to eradicate shanty dwellings from the Spanish capital by 2011. The four neighbourhoods in question are: El Cañaveral in Vicálvaro; Mimbreras II in Latina; Santa Catalina in Puente de Vallecas; and El Ventorro in Villaverde.