Homelessness: Poor Farms, Hoovervilles, Shelters and Tent CitiesThis is a featured page

Washington State Archives-Puget Sound Regional Archives Image: Hooverville on the Seattle waterfront in the mid-1930s-Port of Seattle Photograph CollectionHomelessness has been a chronic problem through time in both urban and rural areas.

Some key historical questions: How have local governments responded when encountering homelessness? What solutions have been explored? What were county “poor farms” and how what part did they play in lives of homeless people in the late 19th and early 20th centuries? Why did county governments in Washington State operate poor farms and “hospitals?” How did individuals and families come to be placed on poor farms? When did homeless shelters and tent cities begin to be used as temporary solutions? How have homeless people helped themselves? What were “Hoovervilles” and how were they used by homeless communities during the Great Depression of the 1930s? What kinds of encounters and exchanges have taken place between homeless people and the communities they have lived in through time?

Be sure to consider other possibilities for historical questions as you analyze and interpret your topic.

Primary Sources:
  • Washington State Laws and Bills
  • DSHS Bureau of Social Services Central Files
  • DSHS Public Assistance Central Files
  • WERA Director’s Files – Housing
  • WERA Relief Files


  • Kitsap County Poor Farm Records
  • Pierce County Poor Farm Records
  • General Files
  • Clerk Files
  • Police Department Annual Reports
  • City Councilmember Records
  • Published Documents


  • Donald F. Roy Thesis on Hoovervilles
  • "Hooverville: a study of a community of homeless men in Seattle" (1935)
  • "Survey of the Interbay dump settlement, Seattle, Washington" (1937)
  • "Single homeless men on relief, King County, Washington" (1937)
  • Clippings File: Seattle - Districts - Hooverville





MaryWSL
MaryWSL
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