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Christmas in Tent City for Jobless in US

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Christmas in Tent City for Jobless in US

Post  Panda on Fri 23 Dec - 8:41

Christmas In Tent City For Jobless In US









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2:27am UK, Friday December 23, 2011



Hannah Thomas-Peter, in New York






Off a busy road near the New Jersey town of Lakewood, people
are setting up camp. This "tent city", as it is called, is just an
hour's drive from the skyscrapers of Manhattan.



The camp organisers say in just one year, the number of residents has jumped from 40 to about 70.


Many of them are long-term homeless; people with addiction and mental health issues.









Typically Americans have grown up with the idea that
they are going to go to school, they are going to get a good job, they
are going to have a family, the American dream, the house, the car and
send their kids to school.


That American dream is falling apart for a lot of people.


Reverend Steven Brigham











But the most recent arrivals are mainly those who lost everything in
the 2008 financial crisis, and who eventually slipped through the safety
net.


They simply have nowhere else to go.


One of them is 61-year-old Marilyn Berenzweig, who used to be a textile designer in Manhattan.


Both she and her husband lost their jobs, and they eventually ended up at the camp.


She told Sky News Online: "In time we will be entitled to our
pensions, but at this point we are between a rock and a hard place.


"We are too old to be retrained for the job market, not that there
are any jobs, and we are too young for social security, so you know, we
just have to wait it out."


Nearby, Angelo Villanueva is waking up after a night shift picking up scrap at a local recycling plant.










Mr Villanueva claims that despite working night shifts he cannot afford a home





He used to be a skilled mason, but after 20 years in the industry,
the 46-year-old lost his job and did not have a support network he could
rely on to keep him off the streets.


He was forced to sell his car, and then his home.


The new job is barely enough to get by, even living in a tent in the woods.


He said: "It is still not enough to pay for housing. I am only making
eight dollars (£5.10) an hour, I used to make $25 (£16) an hour.


"I am just basically asking for a good job, where I can, you know, sustain myself and be a productive citizen in society.


"That is all I want."


As with other tent cities that exist across America, people have
tried to make life in the Lakewood camp as comfortable as possible.


There are generators, portaloos and even a shower room near the temporary outdoor kitchen.


Flowers and hand-painted signs reading "Home, sweet home" hang on tarpaulin structures.


There are even DIY white picket fences and post boxes, although the postman does not deliver here.


Reverend Steven Brigham has been running the camp for five years.


He told Sky News Online that it is just one example of a fundamental shift in American society.


He said: "A lot of Americans are frustrated.


"Typically Americans have grown up with the idea that they are going
to go to school, they are going to get a good job, they are going to
have a family, the American dream, the house, the car and send their
kids to school.


"That American dream is falling apart for a lot of people."


The national unemployment rate in the US has fallen recently from 9% to 8.6%.


But statistics are of little comfort to those people who have found themselves in the Lakewood camp this Christmas.


Their main focus will be keeping warm as the freezing weather sets in.


Lawyers representing camp residents are fighting a lawsuit to evict them from the woods.


It is publically owned property and local officials say the residents are trespassing.


A judge will make a decision about the eviction in early January.









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