Coronado Tent City, California 1900-1939, started out as tents on the beach, from this 1909 postcard. Then the tents were given thatched roofs, then by the 1920s half walls, a trolley, a fire department and a police force. There was a fun fair, concerts, a promenade and a pavilion; the tents had beds and chairs, there were cooking tents, one could rent a palm tent in 1919 for $1 a day, $15 a month. The half-walled tents were called cottages, they were $23 a week.
Tents are portable, temporary, lightweight buildings, yes, but they are also vulnerable: to weather, to light and dark, to tearing, to wind. This community of holiday tents is so different from a campground where one's tent is pitched between RVs with flat screens and the 24-hour hum of AC units. And so different from a motel, those maximum security cells with permanently locked windows.
Of course there was crime in America in the 1910s and 20s, there were gangs, there were drugs, gambling, prostitution, murders and all the rest, but somehow, like the shift in warfare from entirely military casualties to now mostly civilian collateral damage, Tent City must have been somehow protected by its innocence. It was not part of an equation of drugs and gang violence which took place in some other battlefield where no one was playing on the beach in their bathing suits.
It seems civilised, this partition between civilians and violence, both in war and everyday life. Not sure it exists anymore.