Pedagogy of the Plants

Tent City

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On the morning of the last day of school, one of my students pulled me aside and discreetly mentioned, “This weekend we’re moving to a place called The Salvation Army.” I explained where it’s located and talked it up as a place where they’ll be well-taken care of until they have to move again (a familiar ritual). After our conversation, I wondered how the residents of a local homeless camp were faring given recent destruction of woodland habitats, and recalled my first visit to Tent City.

I drove across town to join a small hodgepodge of volunteers from Athens and Atlanta in a Lowes parking lot on the morning of January 6th, 2008. The meeting was organized by an Atlanta-based nonprofit called The Mad Housers. We drove two miles west to Tent City on Lexington Road, a homeless camp tucked into the woods along a stretch of Loop 10.

Wielding tools and panels constructed the day before, we hiked up a shady trail dotted with tents and rudimentary lean-tos in varying states of disrepair. It was hard to discern which were occupied and which ones were abandoned. Once the path leveled a bit, a gentle war veteran named Radar greeted us with firm handshakes. He was the reason for our visit.

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Radar and the rest of our crew spent the next few hours chatting while building his new home, the now-vacant hut pictured above.

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The Mad Housers returned to Tent City and built more homes over the years. Radar passed away, then a woman named Sissy shared the hut with her ailing mother.

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Now everyone is gone. Crews contracted by the Georgia Department of Transportation are in the process of felling trees and clearing undergrowth alongside major roadways. According to a piece on the WUGA website, the project “pushed back the tree line to reduce shadows on the road and ensure falling trees wouldn’t disrupt traffic in storms.”

Whether it’s a mom unable to pay rent and utilities, a chipmunk or garter snake seeking refuge from predators, or military veterans and the mentally ill seeking shelter, the DOT has disrupted more than a few fallen trees and shadows on the road ever could.

 

 

Written by Cameron Brooks

May 26, 2018 at 11:47 am

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