Shannon Stapleton / Reuters Tents stand at SHARE/WHEEL Tent City 3 outside of Seattle, Washington, October 12, 2015. SHARE and WHEEL describe themselves as self-organised, democratic organisations of homeless and formally homeless people which run several self-managed tent cities.
Shannon Stapleton / Reuters Matt Mercer, a resident of Camp Hope, poses among tents in Las Cruces, New Mexico, October 6, 2015.
Stringer / Reuters Richey Luper, from Newport Beach, California, sits outside his tent at Camp Hope in Las Cruces, New Mexico, October 7, 2015.
Shannon Stapleton / Reuters Clouds pass above Camp Hope in Las Cruces, New Mexico, October 6, 2015.
Shannon Stapleton / Reuters Daniel J. Wabsey, a 58-year-old war veteran, Las Cruces, New Mexico, October 6, 2015.
Shannon Stapleton / Reuters Stanley Smith, 60, from Alabama, in Las Cruces, New Mexico, October 5, 2015.
Shannon Stapleton / Reuters Buzz Chevara, 56, poses in front of his tent at SHARE/WHEEL Tent City 4 outside Seattle, Washington, October 9, 2015.
Shannon Stapleton / Reuters Lantz Rowland, 59, Seattle, Washington, October 8, 2015.
Shannon Stapleton / Reuters Kadee Ingram, 28, holds her son Sean, 2, Seattle, Washington, October 13, 2015.
Shannon Stapleton / Reuters Sharon Wilson, 59, poses outside her cottage in Olympia, Washington, October 11, 2015.
Shannon Stapleton / Reuters Aaron Ervin, 50, poses in front of his tent, Seattle, Washington, October 8, 2015.
Shannon Stapleton / Reuters Daniel Paul Oakes, 23, works on a bicycle at Nickelsville, a homeless tent encampment in Seattle, Washington, October 12, 2015.
Shannon Stapleton / Reuters David Yu, 32, and his three-and-a-half month old son Joseph outside his tent, Seattle, Washington, October 8, 2015.
Shannon Stapleton / Reuters Shane Savage, 41, and his partner Jammie Nichols, Seattle, Washington, October 12, 2015.
Shannon Stapleton / Reuters Matt Hannahs, 32, and his son Devin by a wood fire, Seattle, Washington, October 13, 2015.
Shannon Stapleton / Reuters Owen Makel, 65, who has been homeless for nearly 14 years, sits by his tent between the Watergate and Whitehurst Freeway in Washington, D.C., November 16, 2015.
Shannon Stapleton / Reuters James Bannister, 38, stands by his tent, in Washington, D.C., November 16, 2015.
Shannon Stapleton / Reuters Clyde Burgit and his wife Helen sit on a mattress near their tent, Washington, D.C., November 16, 2015.

America's Weedpatches

Tent Cities for the Homeless by the Homeless

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.

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