Economic analysis from Cambridge Acres
[A homeless camp in an overgrown field about a quarter-mile from the parking lot of a mall in suburban Missouri: Six tents, each about 40 yards away from its nearest neighbor. There are lots of signs: A tattered banner strung between two spindly poles reads CAMBRIDGE ACRES / “Comfort on a Budget”; each “lot” has a yard sign that says PRIVATE PROPERTY, and all the tents have stickers like I DON’T DIAL 911 and YOU TOUCHA MY TENT I BREAKA YOU FACE; one sign at the periphery says HOA MEETS THURS. 6 PM. The day is overcast and unseasonably cold. There is one common area, with some bags and cans under a dirty tarp and many smoldering boards surrounded by burnt supermarket circulars and heated charcoal briquettes, piled on bare dirt, on a crate next to which sits JEHOSHAPHAT, 40ish and wearing layers of old, bedraggled Old Navy clothes, thumbing through his iPhone. LUANN, 40ish and wearing layers of old, bedraggled H&M clothes, emerges from a tent with a pail and eventually reaches JEHOSHAPHAT.]
LUANN: You get it going again?
JEHOSHAPHAT: No thanks to you! Still too wet to burn but I got the briquettes going.
LUANN: Them’s my briquettes! Who said you could —
JEHOSHAPHAT: You wanna freeze to death like Oswald?
LUANN: Hell, no, I ain’t stupid.
[LUANN pulls up a crate.]
It’s his own damn fault. Lettin’ his blankets get wet. And he kept trying to get in my tent!
JEHOSHAPHAT: Me too, but I wouldn’t let him.
LUANN: [Mimicking] Lemme in, pleeeese, I’m freeeeeezing!
JEHOSHAPHAT: No respect for private property.
LUANN: Always lookin’ for a handout! No ambition. And he was always sayin’ if the tents was closer together everyone’d be warmer and safer.
JEHOSHAPHAT: Oh yeah, that’s real smart. Like when the bear took Beverly? If we was bang up against each other like Oswald wanted, he’d-a probably et a few of us too.
LUANN: Yup. Harder to keep from screamin’, too, with Beverly getting’ torn to pieces so close by.
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