THE GREAT RECESSION: Life In "Tent City" In Lakewood New Jersey

Homeless Tent City

Photo: Robert Johnson

Lakewood NJ

Photo: Google Maps

Doug Hardman wakes up every morning with a song in his head—a 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 company out here.

About an hour south of Wall Street, where some bankers quietly gripe about how hard it is to survive on a million dollars a year, other Americans are making do with less.

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

70 people live at this homeless camp in the woods

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

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

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

Nina is from Poland. She moved into camp when her husband kicked her out (she's eating borscht)

This is Nina's shanty

She has family in Poland that she misses very much

She has car batteries rigged up for power

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

Doug lives in this tee-pee

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

Daily essentials

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

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

Elwood lives with Cynthia Vellinga who decorated the inside

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

But they live here and allowed me inside

The living room

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

Their bedroom

The vanity mirror and toilet in the background

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

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

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

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

There are public facilities like toilets

A wash house

With a shower and water heated by an electric oven coil

A washer and dryer

A mirror and washtub

And a basket of toiletries by the door

There's also a kitchen

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

The chef lives here

There's a chicken crossing sign painted by Marilyn

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

Rabbits are also supposed to be abundant

But the only one I saw was in a cage

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

A food storage shed

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

A church that was torn down

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

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

Fires are not unheard of

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

But the town came in and tore them all down

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

Despite their situation, people here still love their country

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

Unfortunately this problem is getting worse

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