Just outside of Seattle sits a small cluster of tents in what resembles an overcrowded camping ground. It is actually a miniature city created by the homeless for the homeless. Like a less formal version of Weedpatch, the dust bowl migrant camp depicted in John Steinbeck's Grape's of Wrath, these tent cities have their own elected government with self-assigned titles such as "head of security officer" and "external affairs coordinator"—the latter involves calling charities to coordinate food and water deliveries.
There are hundreds of these pop-up encampments across the United States, where half a million are currently homeless. Many of these tent cities are technically illegal, but local governments generally leave them alone when the local homeless shelters are at capacity. There is no typical resident at these homeless camps. Construction workers, elementary school aids, recently unemployed college graduates, former veterans, and even flannel-wearing hipsters have all passed through the camps' water-resistant, polyester doors.