FRESNO, Calif. — As the operations manager of an outreach center for the homeless here, Paul Stack is used to seeing people down on their luck. What he had never seen before was people living in tents and lean-tos on the railroad lot across from the center.The only thing worse than living in Fresno, I imagine, is being homeless in Fresno. Good God, the humanity. That creates whole new categories of torment and misery that are almost unbearable to contemplate. Those of you who’ve been to Fresno will understand; those of you who, like me, have been to the Greyhound bus station in Fresno will will not only understand but commiserate, and very likely suffer disturbing flashbacks. Even now the memory of it makes me shudder.
“They just popped up about 18 months ago,” Mr. Stack said. “One day it was empty. The next day, there were people living there.”
Like a dozen or so other cities across the nation, Fresno is dealing with an unhappy déjà vu: the arrival of modern-day Hoovervilles, illegal encampments of homeless people that are reminiscent, on a far smaller scale, of Depression-era shantytowns. At his news conference on Tuesday night, President Obama was asked directly about the tent cities and responded by saying that it was “not acceptable for children and families to be without a roof over their heads in a country as wealthy as ours.”
I have to go to my happy place now.