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.

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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.

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“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.

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