In many cities in the U.S., you come across makeshift encampments. A row of tents was set up to house the homeless. These tents provide minimum protection from the elements but are far from the safe spaces that the government and citizens would consider ideal for human habitation.
These tents are usually seen in some neighborhoods, and there are both advantages and disadvantages of these tents. A canopy tent helps accommodate more people and protect them from the elements, but the law-enforcement agencies do not recommend handing down a canopy tent to the homeless.
Giving canopy tents to homeless people do more harm than good. Many states have laws against setting up and use of tents on public land. The problem with using canopy tents is that they are open to the elements unless they have sides and can only be used as a protective layer above tents.
A canopy tent is touted as an excellent contribution to solving the homeless problem because its size helps to house more people in it. The other advantage is that it can protect smaller-sized tents, especially during rains.
Despite these advantages, the police and government do not recommend canopy tents for various reasons-
- In some extreme cases, these came to be used as drug dens. Sadly, it was not homeless who used the tent, but miscreants who had housing.
- Canopy tents can be taken away easily by the wind or by other homeless people and by the police.
- Animals such as rodents attack people living in canopy tents easily because of easy access. This leads to diseases and even fatalities.
- Canopy tents are not made to provide a lot of shelter for an extended period. Homeless people set them up as their homes and could be adversely affected by using them for an extended period.
Is it legal to live in a tent?
The question of living in tents comes up in various scenarios. But the most debated topic is whether it is legal for people to live in tents when they are homeless. The question is whether the rich are enabling the poor with hand-me-downs. Many social workers argue that a tent is better than nothing at all.
However, others say it is better to give a homeless person a sleeping bag and a canopy tent to protect them from the harsh sun and rain. The government does not agree with either of these.
It is illegal to live in any makeshift dwelling in the United States. ‘Makeshift dwelling’ includes tents, cars, or even R.V.s for an extended period. Even if you have private land where you want to stay, away from the crowded city, you need a permit for temporary camping, which you should renew periodically.
There is a reason behind these laws. It is to prevent encroachments. If there was no law against encroachments, people could set up tents everywhere, including highways and public parks. This could lead to many problems such as
- Hygiene and sanitization issues
- Possibility of an epidemic
- Lawlessness- drug dealing, prostitution, robbery
- Fire hazards
Tents are usually not seen as a shelter. So, even if a homeless person is living in a tent, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development considers them homeless and not sheltered. The unsheltered population has been on the rise since 2018 and has grown exponentially since the pandemic.
Most people looking for some shelter do not think it is safe to sleep in a tent. They report that they get robbed, attacked by vermin, and sometimes trodden upon while they sleep.
Can canopy tents come in handy at ‘sprung shelters?’
Sprung shelters are vast tented areas that can house anything upwards of a hundred people. This is an alternative to people living in individual tents. These are sought-after solutions to immediate problems during a natural disaster or prevent too many trailer parks in a single locality. These are cost-effective solutions to the homeless crisis and come with their share of opposition.
The sprung shelters are usually sponsored by private organizations or even some government agencies. These are only seen as a stepping stone to more permanent housing. Canopy tents cannot serve the purpose in this instance, as sprung shelters are giant tents. The only way they can be used is if they are used as extras, away from the main tent.
These are concepts that city planners design. Sprung structures can be found across the nation. But a sprung shelter is not the same as a permanent shelter. It is only seen as a stepping stone to the brick-and-mortar housing unit. These shelters are only put up to protect people from living on the streets with no shelter at all.
Unlike canopy tents, these shelters provide basic amenities- bathrooms, showers, medical care, hygienic surroundings, and laundry. There is also ample insulation that the tents come with, unlike canopy tents. These tents can also have temporary partitions within them that help people have some privacy.