The High Cost of Homeless Encampments: Tens of Thousands Spent Per Tent in These Cities

Los Angeles officials prioritized speed when setting up a new homeless shelter, opting for an easier-to-assemble “safe sleeping” tent encampment instead of the typical tiny home village. The East Hollywood encampment, complete with showers, fencing, and staff facilities, cost $4 million to build, with annual operating expenses of $3 million. Supporters stress the quick set-up times and improved safety, hygiene, and independence they provide occupants compared to unmanaged tent encampments. However, the cost of safe camping sites is inescapably expensive, with the yearly costs of renting an average-priced apartment being cheaper than the per-tent costs of a safe camping site in various cities. San Francisco’s yearly per-tent cost is $61,000, Portland, Oregon’s estimated yearly per-tent cost is $34,000, and San Diego’s high-end per-tent operating cost estimate for a 400-tent safe sleeping site is $28,750. “What we found in the early iterations of safe sleep is that some people preferred tents because it gave them a sense of ownership.” —Kirkpatrick Tyler, Urban Alchemy’s chief of government-community affairs, in the Los Angeles Times