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16 Sep, 2010 22:48

America's poor and impoverished turn to the forest

While the number of homeless people in America is peaking, some have been forced to live in the woods for years because they have nowhere else to go. And their numbers are only growing.

Some are familiar with America the prosperous. Many are familiar with America the traditional. But with millions of Americans homeless, there are also those who only know America the broke.

In the US state of New Jersey, picture-perfect homes can be found just 20 minutes away from tents put up in the woods, because the homeless do not have anywhere else to live.

Former saxophone player Charlie Ericson told RT that he ended up there through his own mistakes in life. He is among at least 40 people who live in Tent City – a homeless camp tucked away in the woods of New Jersey.

Tragic destinies have led those forced to move here to call the village home. RT previously visited the camp in the winter and things have changed since then. More tents have appeared, some have come and others have gone.

Many of the people living in Tent City have been there for months, if not years. The questions many of them ask themselves over and over again are, “Why are we still here?,” “Are there really no other options left for us?”

Noreen Moss has been a newspaper handler for most of her life. It was her health problems that eventually led her to homelessness.

I worked for the New York Times. And I wound up having a brain aneurysm and two strokes. I was almost dead. I was in a coma for two months, and in the hospital for three months,” she said.

Since then, Noreen has given up hope of finding a job. For those still trying to find work the task is close to impossible, with the unemployment rate in the US holding steady at more than nine and a half percent for more than a year now.

Tahsin Uyar is a former chef. He is constantly looking and sending out job applications, but he has been unable to find work.

It’s very difficult now to find a job”, he said.

Those who are able to find work, make less than the minimum wage. Igor Borsh said he works all day long and all he makes is five dollars.

Reverend Steve Brigham set up the camp for the homeless four years ago. He begins church service every Sunday by ringing a hand-made church bell. The reverend said, “at about 12 o’clock, we ring this to let the whole camp know that we’re ready to have our service”.

The reverend runs the entire village. He keeps it in order, he built a shower and a bathroom, and tries to get all the donations he can find for those living in Tent City.

Local authorities have been disturbed by the camp’s existence and have tried to shut it down several times. However Reverend Brigham believes the real danger is in the real world.

People think the homeless’ character is terrible, but the outside world is worse,” he said.

The only option offered by local officials has been beds at a local psychiatric institution among the mentally unstable. But the community did not want to move there, saying it is more than they can handle, already living a tough enough life.

It’s just not a place to live,” said Moss.

Everyone at the camp told RT they believe a better place for them is just around the corner. So far, luck has not been on their side. With not much help from the outside world all they can do is hope a better life is awaiting them somewhere.

The US Census Bureau's 2010 report shows that over 40 million Americans – or one in seven – are living in poverty.

Washington activist Graylan Hagler says not much can be expected to relieve the burden on the poor.

“The reality is that when Washington comes up with its formulas, its formulas are always slanted toward those who have more voice, more power and more influence over the system, and more money – and never toward those who are just sort of working class,” Hagler said.