You see them all over LA: the homeless pitching small camping tents on sidewalks, outside City Hall, under freeway overpasses and along riverbeds.
But it’s a different kind of tent that might be key to quickly, and cost effectively, providing shelter for thousands of homeless people.
Developed by a company called Sprung, the heated and air-conditioned tents are the same that can be put up in a hurry to house hurricane victims and others displaced by natural disasters. One of the large, semi-permanent fabric tents sits in the heart of LA’s Skid Row.
“It’s affordable, it’s quick, it’s comfortable,” said the Rev. Andy Bales, of the Union Rescue Mission. “This is a disaster. It may be man-made. It may be neglect, but we need to treat it like a natural disaster and move on it immediately.”
Bales’ organization is behind the Skid Row tent project, which has been visited twice in the last two weeks by White House and other federal officials who say they want to help LA construct more of the huge tents.
Los Angeles, like other large U.S. cities, has struggled with the issue for years. The homeless population has grown by 16 percent in LA over the last year, according to figures released in June. That increase is illustrated by sprawling encampments near City Hall and other areas in downtown LA, under overpasses and along riverbeds.
Bales gave the NBC4 I-Team a look at the Sprung tent, which will house 120 homeless women starting next month, ahead of the federal officials’ visit.
“They can be put up quickly,” he said. “They’re more affordable than regular structures.”
LA has one other Sprung tent, so far. Located in Hollywood, it provides temporary shelter to about 70 homeless people and cost the city $3 million. That’s almost three times the $1 million cost of the huge tent put up by the Union Rescue Mission.