Homeless Flock to Atlanta Airport

Why live in a homeless shelter when you can reside in an airport? Sure, there are eye-straining florescent lights, visibly irritated passengers, blaring loudspeakers, and unsanitary conditions, but dozens of homeless people gravitate toward Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International airport as a temporary home.

Having slept in an ice cold, unheated airport for an evening, I know that it’s possible to adapt to the uncomfortable environment. During my 24-hour flight delay at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, I watched all my co-passengers sleep in airport lounge chairs, on kiosks, between kiosks, etc. I slept on the floor and woke up in chills every ten minutes, sore and haggard from resting on marble tile.

Nonetheless, it’s possible to survive in an airport, and that’s exactly what these homeless people are doing, only they’re probably better at sleeping under less-than-favorable conditions. One can argue that the airport is such a vulnerable sleeping atmosphere, but it seems safer to rest in an airport than outdoors regardless of climate.

According to the Associated Press article,

Federal authorities labeled this population a security threat in 2005, warning that terrorists might disguise themselves as homeless to do surveillance on their targets.

This is true, but terrorists can disguise themselves anywhere. Police officials would be smart to monitor the homeless nomads if suspicious.

Luckily, the police consider the homeless more “nuisance than danger.” Having grown up around harmless homeless people in the bay area, I know that most of them are not threatening or malicious, but they scare lots of people. It may be ignorant of a passerby to assume a homeless person is trouble, but it’s a common reaction, so Federal Authorities have to control the homeless population so airport customers can maintain a sense of security.

The police often lure the homeless into shelters, but many of them return, and I’m wondering why this is. The airport probably provides the homeless with a greater sense of safety than a shelter. The homeless do not have to be surrounded by other homeless, but busy passersby in a hurry to catch a flight.

Overall, they’ll flock toward the airport before facing the deathly chill of winter outside. This still makes me wonder why they don’t first approach homeless shelters or churches. The homeless can find a place to stay so long as they’re in a big enough city with appropriate resources.

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