A Washington state man says he was born and raised in a “tent city.”
The story begins about 30 years ago, when David Bunch, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was in his early 20s and studying in rural New Mexico.
He said he had a vision of an old man, with a small tent on the ground.
“And it’s like a small, white tent,” Bunch said.
“It had a couple of kids, and they were sitting on top of it, so it had a little kids room, and then there was a porch.”
Bunch said he asked the old man what he needed, and the man said he needed a new tent.
“That’s where I met my future wife, because that was where I was born,” Bitter said.
Bunch, who works as a contractor in nearby New Mexico, moved to Utah with his wife and their two young children in 1996, and now lives in Salt Lake City.
His tent city has become something of a cultural symbol.
The Utah Tabernacle Choir sang his song “Tent City” in 2016.
“It’s been a big part of my life since that first song, and I feel like I’ve done everything that I possibly could have done to try to make this community a better place, because there are a lot of things out there that have been built over the years, that have benefited us,” Buchan said.
But Bunch is concerned about the impact the new camp has had on Utah’s reputation as a tent city.
“I think that’s really what’s changed a little bit, is people realize that it’s a community, it’s not a camp, and that’s the way it should be,” he said.
And while Utah’s new tent city policy has helped to promote tourism and provide employment for residents, it also has led to controversy.
Utah’s new law allows for tent cities to operate with up to 14 people per tent, but the city council voted unanimously last year to ban single-person camps.
Bitter and other local leaders are challenging the ban.
“We’re not trying to be a party to any political agenda, we’re not going to be on the side of the people who are going to oppose this ordinance,” Bichan said, adding that he believes his voice is important to help the local government pass new regulations to prevent similar problems from happening in the future.
“This is what Utah should be about, not a political issue,” he added.