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16 December 2009

"Welcome to Obama-ville" Sign at Colorado Tent City

via Change.org's End Homelessness Blog by Shannon Moriarty on 12/15/09

Last week, a mysterious sign appeared outside a Colorado tent city. It read, "Welcome to Obama-ville: Colorado's Fastest Growing Community." This simple sign prompted investigative news reports and a flurry of response from Colorado residents, wondering who created and paid for the sign.

Funny how a few words on a banner can get a rise out of people. But the people living in a tent city behind the sign? Well, they don't seem to shock us anymore.

KRDO News Channel 13 in Colorado Springs first spotted the sign in the woods off a highway on-ramp. Immediately, they launched an investigative report to identify the mysterious maker of the sign. This report generated a flurry of response. Some chided the misuse of money to create the sign, while others took issue with the political jab at Obama. Colorado's conservative media outlets whined about the lack of media attention being given to Colorado's tent city, and wondered if the sign read "Bush-ville" it would have the opposite effect.

All this banter about a sign in front of tent city. But the real question is this: would we be talking about this tent city in Colorado Springs if this sign was never there in the first place? Probably not.

Shame on us for not generating the same level of curiosity and concern about the people living in the tent city behind the sign as we have about this sign. Shame on us for politicizing homelessness and try and attribute it to any one person. Homelessness is the result of years of failed policies and whack priorities, for which people of all parties can be blamed.

If the goal of this sign was to get people talking, it has clearly worked. But don't let the sign in front of the homeless camp distract you from the real issues - the tough issues - that are manifested right behind the chain link fence. Who are these people? How did they end up homeless? Why aren't they staying in a shelter? What obstacles are preventing them from getting off the streets and into housing? These are the questions we really need to learn the answers to (perhaps through an investigative report?).

This story has an ending. Following the media flurry, the controversial "Obama-ville" sign was removed. It was replaced with another sign that reads: "Please Help: We Need Firewood, Propane, and Canned Food." Sadly, this message hasn't generated the same amount of outrage as the previous sign. It just doesn't seem to have much of a shock value.

Maybe our reaction to these signs say a lot more than the signs themselves.

Image & Video: KRDO

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