By Jaweed Kaleem
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 month for their apartment, kept a vegan diet, and had had a soft spot for pet birds -- ultimately collecting so many that they devoted a room to housing them.
But her world crumbled 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. Eventually, she 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....
Five years before members of the "Occupy" movement began camping across the country in parks from Wall Street to Main Street, a handful of the downtrodden and jobless set up in secluded woods on the outskirts of Lakewood, a township just 70 miles south of New York City near the Jersey Shore. They didn't do it by choice, but as a last resort.
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....
For most of its years, the township of Lakewood, N.J., largely ignored the tent city on its outskirts, but now Lakewood is reportedly trying to get the camp shut down.
Read the full story on The Huffington Post.
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