Americans Homeless in Tent City in New Jersey

Doug Hardman wakes up every morning with a song in his heada vague memory of his days on stage.

 

Inside his tepee in the woods outside Lakewood, NJ, at the homeless Tent City, the roosters wake early and the mornings are already cooler. A musician who lost his Florida home in the housing crisis, Hardman says he floats in and out of Tent City, that he's proud of his kids, and misses the life he no longer has.

He has a lot of company out here.

Click here for the pictures and story >

Tent City made the news recently and while community leader Steven Brigham says the media attention brought in greater donations, it also brought unwanted attention from the local politicians.

After battling with the city for years to have access to the public land here, Brigham found a New Jersey lawyer to represent his case pro bono.

The attorney, Jeff Wild, argued that the homeless population are part of the public and should therefore have access to public lands. Rather than take the case to court, Lakewood City Council settled, and Brigham signed an agreement to put up no more shelters and allow no more than 70 people to stay.

But last winter the community put up three wooden structures to house everyone and keep them warm.

"We didn't lose anybody last year," Brigham says, "and nobody got sick."

This year could be different. After City Council members saw the shelters on TV, they sent demolition crews in. The walls were torn down around whatever was inside, and meager furnishings were left to the elements.

This year, the tent city's residents will have to put wood-stoves in tents and plastic shanties, increasing fire risk. Brigham says the town is making it impossible to survive there, hoping to get the homeless out, and he's concerned it will end up killing people this year.

More than 700,000 people are currently homeless in the U.S. and the number has grown 20 percent from 2007 to 2010.

A recent UN report says the way the U.S. denies its citizens access to water, basic sanitation, and criminalizes homelessness is a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Brigham can relate. He started the camp five years ago and more people show up every year. Some stay, some find part-time work where they can, move on, and wind up coming back.

"There's a real glut of low-skilled manual labor in the area," he says. "There's just nothing for people to do."

Brigham works as a high-voltage electrical contractor on the bridges and tunnels around New York, but his mission is here in the Lakewood forest.

"I found this spot that had no underbrush, which is very unusual," he says, "and this community's become a living protest."

I ask him what he means, and he says, "We're protesting the insincerity of the political system. It's supposed to be for the people and its not."

Outside the town of Lakewood New Jersey, across from this intersection...

Outside the town of Lakewood New Jersey, across from this intersection...

Image: Robert Johnson

70 people live at this homeless camp in the woods

70 people live at this homeless camp in the woods

Image: Robert Johnson

Some people have lived here for years and consider it their home

Some people have lived here for years and consider it their home

Image: Robert Johnson

The camp is run by Reverend Steven Brigham and welcomes residents from all walks of life

The camp is run by Reverend Steven Brigham and welcomes residents from all walks of life

Image: Robert Johnson

Food comes in sporadically, like these baked goods from a local grocery store

Food comes in sporadically, like these baked goods from a local grocery store

Image: Robert Johnson

Nina is from Poland and according to Steve, moved into camp when her husband kicked her out (she's eating borscht)

Nina is from Poland and according to Steve, moved into camp when her husband kicked her out (she's eating borscht)

Image: Robert Johnson

This is Nina's shanty

This is Nina's shanty

Image: Robert Johnson

She has family in Poland that she misses very much

She has family in Poland that she misses very much

Image: Robert Johnson

She has car batteries rigged up for power

She has car batteries rigged up for power

Image: Robert Johnson

This is musician Doug Hardman who plays piano for the church services -- watch a video of him playing below

This is musician Doug Hardman who plays piano for the church services -- watch a video of him playing below

Image: Robert Johnson

Video of Doug Hardman playing piano.

 

Doug lives in this tee-pee

Doug lives in this tee-pee

Image: Robert Johnson

Even with all the rain from Irene the inside is dry and smells like old smoke

Even with all the rain from Irene the inside is dry and smells like old smoke

Image: Robert Johnson

Daily essentials

Daily essentials

Image: Robert Johnson

Elwood Hyers lives here and decorated the outside of his shanty with stuff he found behind a Dollar Store

Elwood Hyers lives here and decorated the outside of his shanty with stuff he found behind a Dollar Store

Image: Robert Johnson

Elwood caught a felony drug charge and with a record he's has been unable to get on his feet

Elwood caught a felony drug charge and with a record he's has been unable to get on his feet

Image: Robert Johnson

Elwood lives with Cynthia Vellinga who decorated the inside

Elwood lives with Cynthia Vellinga who decorated the inside

Image: Robert Johnson

This woman and her boyfriend didn't want their kids to recognize them online

This woman and her boyfriend didn't want their kids to recognize them online

Image: Robert Johnson

But they live here and allowed me inside

But they live here and allowed me inside

Image: Robert Johnson

The living room

The living room

Image: Robert Johnson

Walls insulated with old sleeping bags, the firewood supply, and a litter box filled with sand

Walls insulated with old sleeping bags, the firewood supply, and a litter box filled with sand

Image: Robert Johnson

Their bedroom

Their bedroom

Image: Robert Johnson

The vanity mirror and toilet in the background

The vanity mirror and toilet in the background

Image: Robert Johnson

The chimney design to keep the place from burning down in the winter

The chimney design to keep the place from burning down in the winter

Image: Robert Johnson

Marilyn and Mike lost their NYC jobs in the recession - ran down their savings and had nowhere else to go

Marilyn and Mike lost their NYC jobs in the recession - ran down their savings and had nowhere else to go

Image: Robert Johnson

They raise chickens and rehabilitate birds -- they have a tent and the chickens have a tent

They raise chickens and rehabilitate birds -- they have a tent and the chickens have a tent

Image: Robert Johnson

This is their kitchen under a tarp and Marilyn is filtering a cup of coffee

This is their kitchen under a tarp and Marilyn is filtering a cup of coffee

Image: Robert Johnson

There are public facilities like toilets

There are public facilities like toilets

Image: Robert Johnson

A wash house

A wash house

Image: Robert Johnson

With a shower and water heated by an electric oven coil

With a shower and water heated by an electric oven coil

Image: Robert Johnson

A washer and dryer

A washer and dryer

Image: Robert Johnson

A mirror and washtub

A mirror and washtub

Image: Robert Johnson

And a basket of toiletries by the door

And a basket of toiletries by the door

Image: Robert Johnson

There's also a kitchen

There's also a kitchen

Image: Robert Johnson

Currently filled with food from a wedding and donated by the party house

Currently filled with food from a wedding and donated by the party house

Image: Robert Johnson

The chef lives here

The chef lives here

Image: Robert Johnson

There's a chicken crossing sign painted by Marilyn

There's a chicken crossing sign painted by Marilyn

Image: Robert Johnson

Chickens are everywhere -- the eggs hatch and the birds never get slaughtered -- they keep down the number of bugs

Chickens are everywhere -- the eggs hatch and the birds never get slaughtered -- they keep down the number of bugs

Clover

Image: Robert Johnson

Rabbits are also supposed to be abundant

Rabbits are also supposed to be abundant

Image: Robert Johnson

But the only one I saw was in a cage

But the only one I saw was in a cage

Image: Robert Johnson

There's a public garden named for a young girl who died from cancer

There's a public garden named for a young girl who died from cancer

Image: Robert Johnson

A food storage shed

A food storage shed

Image: Robert Johnson

A bell/empty oxygen cylinder - calls people to church - listen to it ring below

A church that was torn down

A church that was torn down

Image: Robert Johnson

A group of Mormon missionaries were there Saturday helping chop wood for winter

A group of Mormon missionaries were there Saturday helping chop wood for winter

Image: Robert Johnson

The camp will go through a stack this size, every day, all winter long

The camp will go through a stack this size, every day, all winter long

Image: Robert Johnson

Fires are not unheard of

Fires are not unheard of

Image: Robert Johnson

Which is why community sleep houses like this were put up - to keep everyone warm and safe in the winter

Which is why community sleep houses like this were put up - to keep everyone warm and safe in the winter

Image: Robert Johnson

But the town came in and tore them all down

But the town came in and tore them all down

Image: Robert Johnson

Leaving a mess and a winter filled with wood-burning fires inside everyone's tents and shanties

Leaving a mess and a winter filled with wood-burning fires inside everyone's tents and shanties

Image: Robert Johnson

Despite their situation, people here still love their country

Despite their situation, people here still love their country

Image: Robert Johnson

Even if there's no place for them and the people on Main Street want them gone

Even if there's no place for them and the people on Main Street want them gone
http://www.businessinsider.com/lakewood-new-jersey-homeless-tent-ci...

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"It was the poverty caused by the bad influence of the
 English Bankers on the Parliament which has caused in the colonies hatred of the English and...the Revolutionary War."
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"Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are ruined."

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June 26, 1788

 

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