The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

D.C.’s Hoovervilles and Covid

Sep 13, 2021

The Washington, D.C. city government demolished as many homeless encampments by August as in all of 2020, with plans announced to close even more. Last month the National Parks Service also began shutting down tent cities in local federal parks. Both the city and the national parks had slowed down encampment closures last year because of the pandemic, to avoid potentially dispersing homeless people with Covid into new encampments where the virus could spread. But now, even with the Delta variant raging in the area, concentrations of homeless people are being forced to scatter and re-cluster.

Homeless people trying to avoid the contagion in shelters have set up tent communities in practically every park and underpass sidewalk in the city. Some encampments have been given port-a-potties and handwashing stations. Local officials in one neighborhood voted—with words if not yet with dollars—to provide buses with shower and laundry facilities to service nearby encampments.

The tent cities will keep growing back and spreading, as housing is unaffordable in the city. Forcibly shutting them down leaves homeless people nowhere to turn.