LAKEWOOD, NJ — An impoverished man learned the true nature of government as he watched tearfully as bureaucrats demolished his ramshackle home in the woods. He was bothering no one except the government.
This was the reality that was presented to “Sam,” a 70-year-old homeless man living in the forest in Lakewood Township, New Jersey. Sam was a part of “Tent City,” a homeless encampment where between 80-120 individuals have stayed at any given time over the past decade, on so-called public land in Lakewood. These individuals were making the best of their situation by erecting tents and shelters in the woods instead of sleeping on park benches and relying on welfare housing and government subsidies.
After years of threats, the local authorities of Lakewood Township finally had Tent City closed down, and all residents evicted from the forest. The homes that existed there — some for years — were ripped to the ground using heavy machinery.
“Can I watch?” asked Sam, when his home — a wood-framed shelter covered with tarps — was destroyed. Sam’s lip trembled as he stood next to the public servants overseeing the demolition. It was an emotional sight.
Sam’s plight — and those of Lakewood’s Tent City — are being featured in an upcoming documentary called Destiny’s Bridge. The producers added some detail about the above footage in a post on their Facebook page:
There are a lot of questions about why Sam’s house in the woods was demolished. This documentary Destiny’s Bridge is about a homeless community, known as Tent City in Lakewood, NJ. There were 80 people like Sam who were living in this homeless camp for up to 8 years. Lakewood Township filed a lawsuit to have everyone evicted. With the help of a great lawyer, who donated his time to the homeless cause, they reached a settlement. Lakewood agreed to supply housing to all the residents of Tent City for one year in exchange for evicting everyone and demolishing all the structures.
Sam now lives in a motel just a few minutes away from Tent City. He hates living there and has told people that it is drug infested. Sam has been living in the woods a long time before Tent City and he represents a growing population of people who want to be left alone and live off the grid. It is most likely that he will go back into the woods where he is happy and at peace. He is 70 years old and he is a smart, hard working interesting man who doesn’t drink or do drugs.
Tent City was founded by Minister Steve Brigham, who lives with the homeless to help them deal with their emotional and spiritual needs. He has often cited that the homeless problem is exacerbated by government zoning laws and inhumane policies that target the homeless.
“The townships have created ordinances that say you have to have so much property before you can build a house,” Minister Steve said before attentive Tent City residents. “And what that does, is that chases out the poor person.”
In fact, Lakewood authorities have created ordinances that effectively make it illegal to be homeless. It makes it a crime to sleep anywhere than inside a home.
When Tent City was being harassed with threats of closure, one homeless man named Alex Libman took a pillow and a protest sign to the downtown square. He was arrested, charged with obstruction of justice, and placed in the Ocean County Jail with bail set at $2,500.
“Destiny’s Bridge is about a homeless minister that is trying to change the way we house homeless people in this country,” said film producer Jack Ballo. “He believes that as Americans, everyone has the right to build a home that they can afford, and that zoning laws throughout this country are designed to keep out poor people and homeless people by making it illegal to build small, affordable, eco-friendly houses.”
The documentary footage is complete but is still in need of funding for final edits and completion of the soundtrack. If you would like to help, please send donations here.
View the trailer below: