Lakewood Tent City and their makeshift outdoors chapel. by Jaweed Kaleem (excerpts):  Lakewood, NJ - It was not long ago that most Americans would envy Marilyn Berenzweig.  A textile designer, she earned $100,000 a year and lived a comfortable New York City life with her husband, a former radio producer.  They paid $2,000 a month for their apartment, kept a vegan diet and had a soft spot for pet birds - ultimately collecting so many that they devoted a room to housing them.  Her world came crumbling two years ago when she lost her job in the recession.  Like many of the jobless, Berenzweig couldn't fund her old lifestyle with meager unemployment payments.  She downsized.  She moved from place to place, then she eventually left the city altogether.  Today, Berenzweig eats, sleeps and entertains in a two person tent in the middle of the woods.  On her recent 61st birthday, she was one of dozens of people, from the chronically homeless to former professionals like herself, who have come to call such places home.  "We're too young for Social Security and too old to be trained for another job," she said recently, standing by a makeshift kitchen table under a tarp outside her tent.  "So here we are."  

Today, the camp is home to almost 80 people, led by a former electrical contractor-turned-pastor who left a modest life to take his ministry on the dirt road.  They live with little electricity and without a modern sewage system.  Instead, they use propane tanks for heat and a pump that sends water to a generator powered washing machine and shower housed in a shack.  The camp runs on donations from churches and temples whose members visit daily, and has survived on a budget of around $1,000 a month.  In this thriving community, complete with a chapel, a TV room and bi-monthly Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings, new residents arrive every few weeks.  "This camp is for the homeless.  It doesn't matter what caused you to be homeless," said Pastor Steve Brigham, who lives in a converted school bus with a desk, twin-size bed and bookshelves, from which he doles out supplies like food and propane tanks to residents.  Yet, for all the hospitality he's received from local churches and temples, he has started to have "trouble with the powers that be."  A Lakewood resident since childhood, who was ordained at a local nondenominational congregation, Brigham is talking about his hometown's government.  For most of its years, he said, the township largely ignored the tent city, but now Lakewood is taking Brigham to court to get the camp shut down.  

Commentary:  Talk about kicking someone while they are down...  With tent cities popping up all over the nation, and growing on a weekly basis, the courts may not contain the number of lawsuits it will take to remove these unfortunate people off the face of the globe; I say globe, because, really, where does "city hall" want these people to go, if not wooded, uninhabited areas?  You might say, the "high and mighty" see them as an "eye sore" and they don't want them to be able to exist at all - anywhere.  Depopulation conspiracies aren't just concoctions from people's imaginations.  The more the economy fails and the worse things get for a whole lot of people, the harsher and more cruel governing bodies are going to become.  How do I know this?  The Word of God tells us, "Know this, that in the last days perilous times will come.  Men will be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God" 2 Timothy 3:1-4.  Without God, this description of human beings is what the world will become.  * See videos of more tent cities on the News Videos page. 

I was just reading this morning the things that Jesus taught his followers:  "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.   Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled.   Blessed are the merciful, for they will obtain mercy.   Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.  Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.  Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets which were before you" Matthew 5:3-12.

Young Pastor Steve Brigham, who "bears his cross" daily to help the homeless.  You may not believe it, but he is blessed.