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Sacramento's tent city to fold

March 20, 2009 |  6:35 am

Tent_cityToo much media attention can be a bad thing. At least that seems to be the case for a tent city of 200 that sprang up a year ago in Sacramento. From

Then this tattered encampment along the American River began showing up on Oprah Winfrey, Al Jazeera and other news outlets around the world. On Thursday, city officials announced that they will shut it down within a month.

"We're finding other places to go," said Steven Maviglio, a spokesman for Sacramento's mayor. The camp is "not safe. It's not humane. But we're not going in with a bulldozer."

The ragtag community captured the collective imagination through a powerful combination of geography, celebrity and journalistic convenience.

"This is the state capital of the seventh-largest economy in the world, with a movie-star governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and an NBA pro athlete for a new mayor, Kevin Johnson," said Barbara O'Connor, director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and Media at Cal State Sacramento. And the camp "is a wonderful visual for TV journalists."

"Wonderful visual" or not, the camp is what it is: home to the homeless, many of whom never imagined they'd find themselves in such a predicament. This is the only tent city in California that presents a photo op. Is it because the camp is inconveniently located in our state capital? Is anyone else struck by the mayoral spokesman's quote? "We're finding other places to go."

-- Lauren Beale

Thoughts? Comments?

Photo: Homeless construction worker Jim Gibson, 50, ponders his future standing outside a community tent used for cooking near a bank along the American River in Sacramento. Gibson lost his job 6 1/2 months ago and has been living in the tent city for 4 1/2 months. He spends his days looking for work in construction but has had no luck. "I'm embarrassed. This is hard for me to try and deal with this," Gibson said. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times