Tent cities now part of the landscape

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Just outside Union Station, there’s a moment when tourists getting off the Amtrak Capitol Limited from Sandusky, Ohio, or the Silver Meteor from Savannah, Ga., stop and give a little gasp at the vista.

“Oh wow,” I’ve heard them say, over the two decades I’ve been commuting from this station. “It’s right there,” as they see the gleaming dome of the Capitol.

Today, those visitors are treated to a full-frontal view of someone’s air-drying drawers, flapping in the breeze on a clothesline hoisted at the center of a growing tent city on the capitol complex. Right there.

It’s not a sight unique to Washington, D.C.

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In this year of halting, pandemic travel, I’ve seen sprawling homeless encampments mushroom in Los Angeles; Venice Beach, Calif.; San Francisco; Portland (both Oregon and Maine); Seattle; Reno, Nevada; Boston, Philadelphia and New York.


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