Sign Of The Tough Times: ‘Tent City’ Pops Up In Ocean County, New Jersey

60 People Impacted By Economic Downturn Now Living In Shacks In Lakewood

LAKEWOOD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Many professionals in our area have been hit hard by the economic crisis. With no money and no jobs, some are finding themselves homeless, living in tents.

As CBS 2’s Christine Sloan reports, it could happen to anyone.

It’s not where Michael and Marilyn Berenzweig imagined they’d end up when they married 41 years ago — in a wood-framed shack covered with a tent in the woods of Lakewood.

“In a way, it’s like living a simple life,” Michael Berenzweig said.

The bad economy has forced the couple to tent city — a homeless community filled with shacks.

They ended up here a year ago when Marilyn Berenzweig lost her job as a textile designer.

“It was very traumatizing. It isn’t only me — all my friends are out of work just as well in the industry,” she said.

There are dozens of shanties in this community, where about 60 people live.

“Nina,” who didn’t want her last name used, is in the same situation. So is another resident who has created a picket fence, saying it symbolized “home.”

Marilyn Berenzweig — a vegan — tries to stay strong taking care of chickens.

“Don’t feel sorry for us. We enjoy this. It is hard, but it’s not something we can do for the rest of our lives,” she said.

What hurts, she said, is her daughter, whose husband drove them here, hasn’t come by.

“It was really hard. We tried,” Marilyn said, referring to attempting to live with her daughter. “It was mutual. It really was a tiny house.”

Pastor Steve Brigham, who lives in a school bus, said the number of homeless here has grown by 20 since last year.

“At this point and time this is my calling — to take care of the homeless of Ocean County,” Brigham said.

For Michael Berenzweig, who once worked as a radio producer, Sunday may be the last time he plays the piano in tent city’s chapel. On Monday, the City of Lakewood wants the wooden structure and 14 others taken down.

Many wonder how they’ll manage this winter.

The City of Lakewood is ordering the wooden frames down as part of a lawsuit. City officials were not commenting on Friday.

Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.

More from Christine Sloan
  • George

    It’s a sad sad country we live in when you are expected to disappear if you have no job, money or home to go to.

    There’s only one thing in today’s world that will change our decaying conditions, and that is for the people to have a complete revolution against the elected servers of the public.

    Revolution or slavery, it’s your choice.

  • Stephen M. St. John

    By Executive Order existing housing on shut-down military bases can be made available to help these folks.

    • gjk

      Are you kidding? This is an excellent idea.

      Oh, that’s right . . . as long as it isn’t happening to them those who lose their homes and goods are just supposed to disappear.


    Hey Lakeland, Way to look out for your own…!

  • heleneclark

    Expand your mind and expand your knowledge. There are still jobs out there. Go after a degree in the field of your choice and on demand. Find your field at “High Speed University” websites to know which are on demand and suitable for you.

    • gwendolyn

      When you are homeless you don’t have an address that gives identity to where you live, therefore without an adress you can not apply for school, welfare, and many other luxaries that we take for grated. Expand on that thought. The system doesn’t help when your trying to pick yourself back up.

    • LittleChamp

      Yes, and then go outside and ride your unicorn over to the local tree that grows thousand dollar bills, and pick enough of them to be able to afford tuition, as well as rent, food and other basic necessities while you’re getting your degree “in the field of your choice and on demand”. Problem solved!

    • Frederick

      Heleneclark. Are you on a lark? The first couple are married for forty one years(?). Simple arithmatic would place their ages in the early sixties. Who embarks on a ‘high speed’ chase for a degree which will amount to nothing at age sixtyish. There are thousands of “laid-off’ degrees out there, waitng for an assignment from obama with their the ready.

  • Jo Mack

    Meanwhile, the US Government continues to waste endless billions in places it has no business.

    • Hassidic untruth

      Not to mention the fire houses and schools on the remote kush mountains of afghanistan, and the same for all of Iraq!!

      Let un not forget about the multitude of Million dollar bonuses handed out by AIG, Goldman Sachs, GM Deutche Bank….etc….. from the Stimulis QE1, QE2 etc…..

      • Frederick

        Hassidic++ If you would direct your enery at accomplishing something that would benifit you($$$$)and yours, instead of bemoaning the fact that other people have more than you ( Why is that?},you indeed would be the benefitciary of the results. Remember the ‘golden rule’– the guy with the gold makes the rules. Best Regards.

  • exnewyawker

    maybe CBS can send the homeless to some of the Living Large homes they like to report about. Makes sense, right?

  • Anne Hill

    the City of Lakewood doesn’t want the eyesoar of homelessness & poverty to bother them – they prefer to turn a blind eye, stick its head in the sand, and ignore the unemployed in their community. disgusting.

  • gjk

    Hey, how abouut we take parts of each of the city parks and turn them into shanty towns until this recession everybody says is over until it really is?

    Oh, wait . . . no. We can’t do that, everybody wants to ignore the fact that times are as rugh as they are. But, what the hell, if we throw them in jail we’ll have to feed them too.

  • Mat

    Grapes of Wrath 2

    • Frederick

      Mat- I saw that movie. At the time, who would have guessed that Steinbeck would portrey the next stage of depression, having the slogan a la obama of ‘hope and change’.Use your ‘change’ to buy lottery tickets and HOPE for CHANGE. Meanwhile————–

  • Jack Boy

    thank the republicans for denying everything. They think only black people fell on hard times. WAKE UP AMERICA!!!! POOR FOLKS are the new black.


      Hey Jacko, Obama is not a republican, are you still in campaign mode against Bush? By the way, Obama kept Guantanamo open and is now running 3 wars. HAW HAW HAW

    • Frederick

      Jack Boy: When Bush left, unemployment was at 5.7%. obama’ bs , heard loud and clear ,stated that the unemployment rate WOULD NOT exceed 8%. The offical nimber is 9.1% to date. The reality of life is that the number of unemployed AMERICANS is ~ 18%! obama is anti-AMERICAN business.His regulations FORCE companies to RELOCATE in order to survive .That means jobs flow out of the country , resulting in INCREASED unemployment. Perhaps that is an oversimpllefaction. But the gist of my response is , obama is a complete FLOP as an administrator of our economic ‘well being’ Best Regards.

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