tent city in new jersey

Yesterday, I met with Minister Brigham yesterday at his Homeless Tent City in a wooded area of Lakewood, New Jersey. My initial, impression was one of shock and dread of something I never thought I would see in America.

After meeting Minister Brigham and walking through the community, I feel oddly comfortable and guardedly optimistic. Minister Steve Brigham has been helping the homeless for 11 years and operating this camp for 4. It has grown significantly over the last 2 years.

Listening to Steve was like reading “The Long Emergency;” he gets re-scaling, localizing and living within rational environmental limits. He’s on the front-line of the collapse of Cheap-Energy American Society.

The camp is set back 200 feet into a wooded area. It consists of about 30 structures: a few school buses, lean-tos, tents and more elaborate structures (designed with great ingenuity), a common/community building. One circular home had a solar array to power LED lights. They have a generator for the “office”, bath/laundry facilities and common area. The bath/laundry building has a 45ft deep well, propane hotwater heater, sink & shower, and a washer and dryer.

There are about 45 residents. Most were working poor cast off in the Great Recession; but the newer residents come from the lower end of the middle-class. People who had homes, jobs, and “secure” lives now have nothing.

This is not a place I would choose to live, but, if necessary it is a place I could live. These people have faced a crisis most Americans have yet to experience and have come together, with the guidance and help of a kind, smart man, and designed and established an effective way to survive and adapt to a sick dying economy. They are nice quiet people who, in spite of their old lives being destroyed, have retained their dignity and humanity.

It was an oddly uplifting day.

Doug Walden
Asbury Park, New Jersey