IMPACT
05/20/2014 01:27 pm ET Updated May 20, 2014

With Homeless Shelters Stretched Beyond Their Means, The Needy Resort To Building 'Tent Cities'

Mattresses, bikes and pieces of clothing were just a few of the items swept up by bulldozers near a freeway in Camden, N.J., last month. The city wasn't simply cleaning up roadside trash, though -- it was, in a certain sense, evicting some of its residents.

Tent cities -- makeshift communities populated by the homeless in predominantly urban and suburban areas -- are growing in number, CNN Money reports. Many tent city residents say they've turned to that style of living because overcrowding at local shelters has left them no other options.

"This is our sanctuary right here, and they're just ripping it out from under us," said one woman in the video produced by CNN Money. She lived in the Camden-based tent city and was not pleased the place she considered her home was no longer an acceptable place to reside.

While the stock market frequently reaches record highs in a post-Great Recession U.S., the poorest Americans are telling a different story. A report from the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty found that from 2008-2013, tent cities sprung up from coast to coast, and at least 100 homeless encampments across the country have been verified. But Eric Tars, a NLCHP program director, wrote on the organization's blog that the total number of tent cities is likely much higher.

Tars also reports that out of the 100-plus tent cities confirmed in 46 states and the District of Columbia, only eight had "regularized legal status" -- which is why homeless encampments like the one in Camden are being swept away by local law enforcement.

According to the NLCHP report, evicting tent city residents is not helping the issue.

"While tent cities should never be viewed as a substitute for permanent housing or longer-term investment in housing and service provision, they can serve important immediate needs," the NLCHP report stated. "And eviction of their residents is not the solution."

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