In scenes reminiscent of the Great Depression these are the ramshackle homes of the desperate and destitute U.S. families who have set up their own ‘Tent City’ only an hour from Manhattan.
More than 50 homeless people have joined the community within New Jersey’s forests as the economic crisis has wrecked their American dream.
And as politicians in Washington trade blows over their country’s £8.8 trillion debt, the prospect of more souls joining this rag tag group grows by the day.
Building their own tarpaulin tents, Native American teepees and makeshift balsa wood homes, every one of the Tent City residents has lost their job.
These people have been reduced to living on handouts from the local church and friendly restaurants and the community is a sad look at troubles caused as the world’s most powerful country struggles with its finances.
‘We have been in and out of the camp for a year,’ said ex-hotel worker Burt Haut, 43, who lives with his wife, ex-teacher Barbara, 48 in a tent styled like a teepee from the Old West.
‘Our financial difficulties since the credit crisis three years ago have caused us to camp on public ground, at the back of churches and down the backs of closed down stores.
‘We have had help from our friends and family, but we have run that well dry.
‘We are trying to get back on our feet and with help from the camp leadership we hope to get back onto a social security scheme or help with some assisted housing.’
Ravaged by the loss of their jobs and their homes, the residents of Tent City struggle to get by without day-to-day luxuries that we take for granted such as food on the table and a roof over their heads.
Ex-minister Steve Brigham, 50, runs Tent City, which consists of a dirt road running through a two-acre encampment which has flowerpots laid out front of proud tents and homes.
Functioning as near to a normal town as possible, Tent City is governed by democratic rules agreed by all the residents.
They all must agree to no fighting, to clean the camp, to volunteer their time when they have it, and to most importantly keep the noise down after 10pm.
The camp is currently involved in a legal battle with local Ocean County authorities which wants to remove the camp and the case has gone all the way to New Jersey Superior Court.
Steve and the community of Tent City want Ocean County to provide a purpose built shelter for the homeless and are working with a local lawyer working who works for free.
‘This is a place to recover, to dry out, to get back on your feet to help to re-enter the world,’ said minister Steve who was ordained eight years ago but has given up all his possessions to live in poverty with the growing community in Tent City.
‘We have a petrol-powered generator that heats up the water for the shower and lets us wash up dishes after donated meals.
‘We have pet chickens which are not for eggs, they are to eat the ticks that could make us feel very ill with Lyme disease or a blood infection.
‘It is a racially diverse community with Mexicans, Polish, Irish, African American and white people.
‘There are eight women living here too, which was a problem in the past, but has now made the camp more calm by their presence.
‘The struggle for every day existence here makes us realise how lucky we are when we have our homes and our lives all in front of us with our televisions and microwave meals.’
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