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Muncie Transient Camp

In May 1934, it was announced that a camp for transients would be established on 35 acres north of the Indiana Steel & Wire factory site.  The camp was a Depression era project through FERA (Federal Emergency Relief Administration) to relieve the burden of local agencies trying to deal with transient and homeless men. It was expected that the cost of housing men at the camp would be less than paying relief money to individuals. All expenses were to be paid by the federal government with the exception of food, which was purchased by county funds. Produce was grown on the site and other foodstuffs purchased locally.

The first buildings to be erected were a recreation hall and dining hall. Temporary house tents, consisting of wooden walls and floors with canvas roofs, housed sixteen men each until permanent structures were built for winter occupancy.

The objective of the camp was to rehabilitate men to “normal economic and social lives.” Men worked at the camp and other jobs in the area that were available. Vocational and academic training was provided as well as a variety of recreational activities. Baseball and handball courts were constructed and there was a plan to dam a creek running through the property to create a swimming area.

Local men living in the camp were required to work four days a week, six hours a day; non-local transients five days, six hours each day. All of their needs were to be met in terms of food, clothing, shelter, medical attention, and training. They would receive $1 a week for spending money after working the required number of hours.

The camp was one of four in the state. By 1935, the site had two dormitory buildings, sixteen “shacks”, infirmary, combined bath/laundry/fumigator, blacksmith shop, camp office, and the dining and recreation halls. Numbers at the camp averaged about 400 and in November of 1934, almost 3500 had registered with the local transient bureau office.  The majority of these were short-term stays of just a few days before they moved on to other locations. Transients from all states and Mexico were represented in the camp.

In July 1935, FERA stopped some of its work relief projects and by September most had been shifted to the WPA (Works Progress Administration). The state halted intake of men into the camps but those who were already residents were allowed to remain. By December, the camp was officially under the authority of the WPA and men could only work on WPA projects.  Locally, this change shifted most of the burden of transients back onto the Muncie Mission.

The transient program was discontinued in the spring of 1936 and the camp closed.  In October, it was announced that several of the structures would be dismantled and rebuilt on the Camp Redwing scout camp property. A large cook stove and tables with attached benches for the dining hall were also moved to Redwing. These improvements allowed the scouts to pursue activities at the camp during the winter months.

The photos are from the Charles R. Warren collection. Mr. Warren was the executive secretary of the transient service bureau and head of the camp. He put together an album of over 100 photographs that documents the two years of the camp’s existence.