Life In The California Desert’s Slab City

Reuters offers a hypnotic glimpse inside a desert community which blurs the line between homeless encampment and off-the-grid utopian commune. Populated by hippies, the blue collar elderly, and families with young children, it features a golf course, a 24-hour library, an internet cafe, and plenty of good times:

Somewhere on the edge of reality is this place. A former military base that was closed after World War II, Slab City is a place on the fringe both geographically and philosophically. It attracts a variety of people, including jobless and financially struggling recession refugees who can no longer pay for food and housing.


11 Comments on "Life In The California Desert’s Slab City"

  1. Hadrian999 | Mar 9, 2012 at 8:01 pm |

    I hope this story doesn’t get them cleared out “for their own safety”

    • Anarchy Pony | Mar 9, 2012 at 8:17 pm |

      Well now you jinxed them. Way to go.

      • Hadrian999 | Mar 9, 2012 at 8:47 pm |

         but I didn’t say simon says

        • Jim_teacher | Mar 9, 2012 at 11:04 pm |

           The place in front of it – called Salvation Mountain – is pretty interesting and a folk monument declaring that ‘God=Love’, by an old man named Leonard. Anyway it enjoys protected status. Look it up on Wikipedia…

          Because of Leonard’s life-work, Slab City has been protected, somewhat, as well. It seems the park department wanted to charge for camping, but one can’t do that at a religious monument. 

          If you’ve seen ‘Into The Wild’, or read the book, you have heard of Slab City. The subject of the book/movie went to Slab City before Alaska.. and as such, all the folks at ‘The Slabs’ are typically reliving the days when Sean Penn showed up… whether they were there, or not, at the time.

          Anyway, it’s a pretty interesting place but certainly has it’s problems. Geocaching was a blast, though! I lived near there for about 5 years.

  2. This has been going on and has been public knowledge for a very long time. No one is going to clear them out.

  3. Yeah, this isn’t the first story I’ve seen about this place. Sorta reminds me of a “interstitial community” from a William Gibson novel.

    It also reminds me of the Rainbow Family, which gather in the National Forests around the country. I get out and spend a week or two with them when I can. Not nearly as often as I should.

    The Feds have come down really hard on the Rainbow Family, though.  Hopefully this place won’t get swamped with people or attract the wrong sort of attention from the Gub’mint.

    • Hadrian999 | Mar 9, 2012 at 9:33 pm |

       I always worry when i see stories about communities like this that it will attract gawkers and vultures, or people looking for their latest weekend counterculture adventure and end up destroying the community

  4. I live here in the Imperial Valley and know very well the Slabs. This former military base is owned by a certain state public employee union, as being an absentee owner who is not willing to invoke it’s landowner rights concerning “trespassers”, the county agencies cannot “clear the Slabs” without owner approval. Litigation costs to do this would be very expensive for these agencies so it is in a “don’t see, don’t tell.” (90 percent of the inhabitants are really wonderful persons who have fallen on the hard times and sort of congregate to the slabs because of word of mouth tales about it and it’s take in a lost soul feeling to assist or help by the other citizens of the Slabs. Salvation Mountain is a great example of one man’s goal to show the world that belief in your faith no matter which one is your decision and yours alone of how you wish to express it. 

  5. Right next door is a military bombing range.  That must be fun to listen to while trying to sleep.  Not a place I would want to live, but to each according to their needs.

  6. Sounds interesting but what do these Slab Citizens do for a living.  What do they produce?  Can they produce?  What about the kids?
    Just wondering.

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