The Great Depression was a terrible time; unemployment rates rose drastically, and people throughout the nation struggled economically. The rates of unemployment became so high that “by 1932, three years after the initial crash, near thirty million Americans had lost their source of income” (Gregory). How did people live without jobs and homes during this difficult time? Some of the unemployed lived on the streets or with other family members; however, others resided in Hoovervilles, shantytowns named in resentment after the former president, Herbert Hoover (“Hoovervilles Across”). Throughout the Great Depression, these towns appeared across the nation; they were inhabited by the unemployed and the evicted, and the conditions were rather terrible.
To begin, Hoovervilles were a nationwide occurrence. The Great Depression impacted every area of the United States of America; therefore, there were multitudes of evicted people in every state. Without any place of residence, they began building shacks in urban areas: “As the Depression worsened and millions of urban and rural families lost their jobs and depleted their savings, they also lost their homes. Desperate for shelter, homeless citizens built shantytowns in and around cities across the nation” (“Hoovervilles”). These shacks usually interfered with the residences around them; therefore, many cities destroyed the shantytowns. In the case of the Seattle Hooverville, the city tried to destroy the Hooverville two times before the police allowed the Hooverville to exist in the city: “Seattle police twice burned the early Hooverville, but each time residents rebuilt” (Gregory). Evident is the determination of the people; despite the disapproval of the city governments, they rebuilt.
In addition, the conditions of the Hoovervilles varied from city to city. Most of the Hoovervilles were small towns; however, there were many large Hoovervilles, like the St. Louis Hooverville, which lasted until 1936: “No two Hoovervilles were quite alike, and the camps varied in population and size. Some were as small as a few hundred people while others, in bigger metropolitan areas such as Washington, D.C., and New York City, boasted thousands of inhabitants” (“Hoovervilles”). Also, the Hoovervilles were usually extremely dirty and unsanitary places. Most of the shacks were crudely built, and some people lived in cardboard houses or holes in the ground: “Hooverville shanties were constructed of cardboard, tar paper, glass, lumber, tin and whatever other materials people could salvage…Some homes were not buildings at all, but deep holes dug in the ground with makeshift roofs laid over them to keep out inclement weather” (“Hoovervilles and Homelessness”). Hoovervilles were not ideal places; most were unorganized areas of shacks made with crude materials, no different from living on the streets. However, they did provide a community where people could support each other through this difficult time.
In conclusion, Hoovervilles were shantytowns from the Great Depression that provided a community for the evicted. Although the conditions were usually terrible, they contained people with the same predicament a place to live. Looking at these Hoovervilles, modern-day society can learn about how people come together during difficult times in order to survive.
Gregory, James. “Everyday Life during the Depression.” Everyday Life. University of Washington. Web. 30 Apr. 2015.
“Hoovervilles Across the United States During the Depression.” Hoovervilles Across the United States During the Depression. Legends of America. Web. 30 Apr. 2015.
“Hoovervilles and Homelessness.” Hoovervilles. University of Washington, 2009. Web. 30 Apr. 2015.
“Hoovervilles.” History.com. A&E Television Networks. Web. 30 Apr. 2015.