Friday, September 16, 2011

The jobless in New Jersey find refuge in Tent City



Cars and trucks cruise along Cedar Bridge Avenue, drivers listening to radio anchors reporting the headline that a record 46 million Americans are living in poverty, while 50 feet from the bustling boulevard, hidden by the woods that border the road, lies a shocking example of that shameful statistic.

Behind the trees, six dozen homeless Americans have set up camp, in tents, teepees and huts, residents of what they call Tent City. It's a place where those out of work and out of luck can drop out of society while living as cheaply as possible.

"It's a community here," said the Rev. Steven Brigham, who founded Tent City in 2006 as part of his Lakewood Outreach Ministry Church. "They have a sense of belonging."

In the past year Brigham has seen Tent City's population nearly double as the jobs recession drags on.

Angelo Villanueva jabs at a homemade punching bag he hung from a tree -- a plastic bag filled with dirt wrapped with tape. It's a "stress reliever," said Villanueva. He's a skilled mason who worked construction jobs for nearly two decades, then fell victim to a sucker punch from the housing collapse. Villanueva, also an artist who has been drawing sketches of Tent City, never dreamed that he'd be among the nation's homeless. more