« | »

NYT Discovers Homeless Under Obama

From the ‘This Land’ section of the New York Times:

Timothy Webb, 49, left, and Bruce, 59, live in a tent city, dubbed Camp Runamuck, in Providence, R.I., under an overpass stretch of Route 195 that is scheduled for demolition.

Living in Tents, and by the Rules, Under a Bridge


July 31, 2009


The chief emerges from his tent to face the leaden morning light. It had been a rare, rough night in his homeless Brigadoon: a boozy brawl, the wielding of a knife taped to a stick. But the community handled it, he says with pride, his day’s first cigar already aglow.

By community he means 80 or so people living in tents on a spit of state land beside the dusky Providence River: Camp Runamuck, no certain address, downtown Providence.

Because the two men in the fight had violated the community’s written compact, they were escorted off the camp, away from the protection of an abandoned overpass. One was told we’ll discuss this in the morning; the other was voted off the island, his knife tossed into the river, his tent taken down…

The chief, John Freitas, is 55, with a gray beard touched by tobacco rust. He did prison time decades ago, worked for years as a factory supervisor, then became homeless for all the familiar, complicated reasons.

Layoffs, health problems, a slip from apartment to motel room. His girlfriend, Barbara Kalil, 50, lost her job as a nursing-home nurse, and another slip, into the shelter system. A job holding store-liquidation signs beside the highway allowed for a climb back to a motel, but it didn’t last.

Weary of shelters, the couple pitched a pup tent in Roger Williams Park, close to a plaque bearing words Williams had used to describe this place he founded: “A Shelter for Persons in Distress.” But someone complained, so Mr. Freitas set off again in search of shelter. The March winds blew…

He and Ms. Kalil set up camp with another couple in early April. Word of it spread from the shelters to Kennedy Plaza downtown, where homeless people share the same empty Tim Hortons cup to pose as customers worthy of visiting that doughnut chain’s restroom. The camp became 10 people, then 15, then 25. No children allowed.

“I was always considered the leader, the chief,” Mr. Freitas says. “I was the one consulted about ‘Where should I put my tent?’ ”

By late June the camp had about 50 people. But someone questioned the role of Mr. Freitas as chief, so he stepped down. Arguments broke out. Food was stolen…

Some state officials recently stopped by to say, nicely but firmly, that everyone would soon have to leave. The overpass poses the threat of falling concrete, and is scheduled for demolition. The officials have shared the same message with a smaller encampment across the river

Here at the end, nearest the road, are the tents of young single people and substance abusers; this way, rescue vehicles won’t disrupt the entire compound.

Here in the center are a cluster of couples, including two competing for the nicest property, with homey touches like planted flowers. Here too are the food table, the coolers, the piles of donated clothes — what can’t be used will be taken by camp residents to the Salvation Army — and the large tent of the chief. Plastic pink flamingos stand guard.

Farther on, the recycled-can area (the money is used for ice and propane); the area for garbage bags that will be discreetly dropped in nearby Dumpsters at night; and, behind a blue tarp hung from the overpass, a plastic toilet. The chief says the shared task of removing the bags of waste tends to test the compact.

Finally, near some rocks where men go to urinate, live a gay couple and some people who drink hard. Timothy Webb, 49, who says he used to own a salon in Cranston called Class Act, cuts people’s hair here. Then, at night, he and his partner, Norman Trank, 45, sit at a riverside table, a battery-operated candle giving light, the moving waters suggesting mystery…

Tomorrow, an advance party for the chief will leave to claim another spot across the river that turns out not to be on public property. Many in the camp will decide it’s time to move on anyway, to a spot under a bridge in East Providence. Camp Runamuck will begin its recession from sight and memory…

This must be why Mr. Obama is not spending stimulus money on repairing bridges.

He doesn’t want to disrupt these people who are living under the bridges.

This article was posted by Steve on Friday, July 31st, 2009. Comments are currently closed.

9 Responses to “NYT Discovers Homeless Under Obama”

  1. BannedbytheTaliban says:

    What exceptional change Obama has brought to us lowly serfs. Here there are people living together in a utopia of communal harmony. The sense of “won-ness” and acceptance in this mosaic of America is overwhelming. How can I live in such a community? It just makes me tear up thinking about this little slice of heaven, the green living, and social equality.

    You see, our dear leader has a plan. The economic takeover of America, wealth redistribution, socialized medicine, well, they are all signs of the great things too come. With the evil, profit hungry private sector soon to be stopped, we will all soon be living in such bliss.

  2. MinnesotaRush says:

    Well isn’t this charming piece of journalism just so reminiscent of the reporting on the homeless during the George Bush administration … NOT!

  3. BigOil says:

    Obama needs to put the stimulus money to work and erect a sign proudly proclaiming the formation of an Obamaville.

  4. Eliminate minimum wage, and there would be no need for Tent cities. There would be as many jobs available as there are people.

  5. Popping up like mushrooms, they is.

    I think ‘Obama-ville’ is an appropriate name.

    • DW says:

      Weren’t tent-cities during the depression known as “Hoovervilles” after the (then) POTUS?

  6. gradstudent says:

    Does anyone else think we should send a trio of goats across the bridge and see what happens?

  7. Gila Monster says:

    Dan Barry sure waxes poetic on the leader of this “Obamaville”, John Freitas, does he not?

    “The chief, John Freitas, is 55, with a gray beard touched by tobacco rust. He did prison time decades ago, worked for years as a factory supervisor, then became homeless for all the familiar, complicated reasons.”

    The flowery prose regarding Freitas goes on for several paragraphs.
    Then, later in the article, Mr. Barry throws out this tidbit, almost as an afterthought.

    “The camp became 10 people, then 15, then 25. No children allowed.”

    Rather noble of these people, right? Protecting children and all that entails.
    But alas, Mr. Barry left out some important information about Freitas that is likely the real reason why this “Obamaville” doesn’t allow children.
    Freitas has four convictions for child sex offenses dating back to 1978.
    From Clay Waters over at NewBusters;

    According to the Web site for the Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry Board, Mr. Freitas was convicted of rape and abuse of a child, in 1978, and of indecent assault on a child in 1978, 1986 and 1987.


    The kicker is Mr. Barry knew about this little fact when he wrote the original Slimes article.

    “Barry revealed he knew about Freitas’s sex offense at the time he wrote the article. So why wasn’t it included in the reference to Freitas doing “prison time decades ago”? Probably because the details would mar the faintly nostalgic, “Hooverville” mood Barry was trying to put across.”

    Sadly, (or maybe not sadly), we all know the NY Times ceased to be a “newspaper” long ago, simply morphing into a propaganda arm for their uber-left masters at the DNC and others of their ilk.
    What a waste of trees, and ink..!!

« Front Page | To Top
« | »