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Monday, March 16, 2009

Airport Space-age Homeless

Dionne Walker, an AP writer recently reported about homeless living in the nation’s airport terminals. Mixed with the sound of jet blast and the smell of Jet-A fuel, clusters of homeless have long settled in terminals from Philadelphia to Chicago, ideal round-the-clock shelters for men and women displaced by cities trying to clean up their downtowns. However, Federal authorities labeled this population a security threat in 2005, warning that terrorists might disguise themselves as homeless to do surveillance on their targets.

For instance, homeless arrive at Atlanta’s Hartsfield Airport on the last subway trains of the evening, which almost ensures they can't be forced to leave until the trains start running again in the morning. Throughout the night they often blend in with stranded fliers, a shoeless foot or tattered clothes some of the only signs they're not ordinary travelers. Some roam the terminal. Others find a comfy resting spot among business types and families sitting in the atrium.

All of them frequent the eating areas and bathrooms. The airport setting is ideal: A 24-hour public setting with food and water, where nobody looks twice if you snooze for hours.

In Atlanta, a police sweep will take the homeless to the train station, or either take them on the other side to wait for the train to come, but one night-shift janitorial worker said. "The next morning, they come right back."
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