HOWELL, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — ‘Home for the homeless’ reads a sign outside of a tent city in Howell, New Jersey.
It’s located through the woods off Rt. 9, the entrance lies underneath an American flag, but the camp is far from an American dream.
“We’ve got 9 people in this camp,” tent city leader, Minister Steve Bringham told CBS2’s Meg Baker.
Bringham ran a similar tent city in Lakewood. It was home to more than 130 residents before it was shut down 2 years ago. He walked CBS2’s cameras through the place where some of those residents live now.
“Sixty people from the Lakewood tent city got a year’s worth of housing for a year. Year is up, so vast majority weren’t able to keep that housing and are back in the woods,” Bringham said.
Most people in Howell didn’t seem to realize the camp existed in their community.
“Kind of scary, but nothing we can do. They have to live somewhere. I guess if they keep to themselves,” Brenda said.
“The township is trying to handle the homeless situation in the most compassionate, responsible manner we can,” Township Manager, Jeff Mayfield said.
People in the camp said they prefer the woods to a shelter.
“I tried one shelter in my life and it was a horrid experience,” one resident said.
One resident had been there for more than a year.
“While you are there, sleep with one eye open. You can’t leave anything there during the day time, so living in woods like this little camp affords the possibility that you can have some sort of home,” he said.
The ultimate goal is to have the campers living in normal society again.
“A lot of folks in camps are working, not stereotypical homeless,” Mayfield said.
“Economics in this area make it difficult for a person to afford a place to live with a minimum wage job. Everyone needs a place to lay their head,” Bringham said.
Howell is holding a town council meeting on the homeless issue on Thursday night. One solution that township is looking into are tiny homes.
There are no shelters in Howell, although many in the tent city refuse assistance.