[Tagging] How to map a homeless encampment/colony?

Michal Fabík michal.fabik at gmail.com
Sun Sep 29 14:48:17 UTC 2019

I don't even know an acceptable expression for this. How do I map an 
area, usually somewhat secluded in a city, where homeless people build 
their makeshift shelters, tents and similar?

While some of the shelters could theoretically be called buildings, they 
are macgyvered out of anything and everything that can be found, so they 
change their shape, size and precise location often. Some are actual old 
tents, as used by hikers, others yet are little more than cardboard 
boxes or a few pieces of plastic foil stretched between tree branches.

The areas might sometimes be raided by the police and the shelters 
destroyed in an attempt to make the inhabitants move elsewhere, but they 
are generally semi-permanent in nature, sometimes lasting many years. 
Social workers sometimes visit them to reach out to the homeless people 
who don't actively seek help in social facilities.

So, what is this? Here's what it probably isn't:

The word "camp" and its derivatives seems to be used exclusively in the 
context of tourism in OSM.

While the areas are inhabited exclusively by the homeless, they're not 
social facilities of any sort.

Technically speaking, it could be considered a special case of a 
landuse=residential because the people sort of _reside_ there, only 
there are no residential buildings and the mode of residence is very 
different from what the tag usually denotes.

It's not a slum, as seen in big African, Asian and South American 
cities. It's much smaller and much, much more rudimentary than that. 
There are no well-defined buildings or streets, no illegal shops, no 
improvised cafés or services of any sort. No water or electricity, not 
even illegally tapped from a street lamp or similar. Slums are parts of 
cities where poor people actually live their lives. What I'm talking 
about are spots where mentally ill and/or drug addicted try to stay warm 
and dry.

The areas can be dangerous to venture into for an outsider but I'd 
rather not map it as some sort of a hazard area as it's is subjective, 
difficult to assess reliably and not necessarily the case (as opposed to 
e.g. a minefield, which is always dangerous).

Any ideas?


Michal Fabík

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