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How we went from Middle-Class to Homeless

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  • marilyn.berenzweig
    From April-2010-to-PRESENT: My Husband Michael and I have been Homeless. we are a couple in our early 60s who was middle class ($100,000+ per year income)
    Message 1 of 3 , May 26, 2013
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      From April-2010-to-PRESENT: My Husband Michael and I have been Homeless. we are a couple in our early 60s who was middle class ($100,000+ per year income) until my job was eliminated in late 2009. We live in LAKEWOOD (NJ) TENT CITY.

      We are vegans, and are trying to rebuild our lives by creating a micro-enterprise that enables us to help non-profit organizations raise funds.

      MY BIOGRAPHY:

      I think I had a rather old-fashioned childhood, even for the times, and I always was a bit of a loner, I spent a lot of time in the woods near where I lived. I started painting and drawing very early (at three) and was a big reader. As early as I can remember I was very interested in animals and by the time I was six or seven I wanted to be a vegetarian, though in my family that was considered outrageous and not allowed.

      My family lived until I was eight with my mother's parents who had been homesteaders in North Dakota till my mother was a teen-ager, and I think I inherited certain skills from them.

      When it came time for higher education I went to Philadelphia College of Art. I guess I blossomed there, made, more friends than I'd had in the past, and eventually met Michael. We've been together now for over 40 years. You might say we are soul mates, though that does not mean we don't quarrel! But, our goal and interests mesh very well. Our most serious interest in animal and planetary welfare unites us.

      When our daughter reached school age I decided to make a career for myself in Textile Design, an industry which attracted many artists, and over the 30 odd years I worked I did quite well. I really liked my job on the whole- that is the actual work as opposed to the politics.

      Unfortunately, the industry has pretty much died here in the USA. It's mostly gone overseas, so in 2009 I lost my job and could not get another. I must have applied for 150-200 jobs, in different sectors and at all pay levels, but I did not have any success.

      As the major breadwinner of the household and with many mouths (and beaks) to feed this was a terrible time for me, knowing I was going to lose my job. I'd spend night after night lying awake trying t figure out what to do. I decided the best thing would be to consolidate households with our daughter and her family (husband and three kids) in the small house they rented in Queens. We'd help out with bills, groceries; do the cooking, cleaning and some of the childcare. Well, it should have worked out, and it could have worked out, but it did not. One day about 4 months in a big fight broke out and somehow everything fell apart. Our daughter asked us to leave, and really we needed to go.

      We had a few options and limited amount of income, but all out options depended on the kindness of our friends or family. But, to tell you the truth I'd had enough of that with my daughter!

      OUR EVOLUTION to HOMELESSNESS.

      One of my dear friends had many years earlier mentioned how with all the foreclosures and job loss going on that tent camps were springing up all over the country, and I thought that might work for us.

      I looked u p tent camps on the internet and came up with Tent
      City, called the Reverend who runs it, and he said he had room for us. I was so relieved I cried.

      We took about a month to prepare for the move, read a lot about camping, bought a tent, and in early April 2010 our son-in-law drove us here in a very packed van. We brought our rescued birds, our cat with us, lots of books, food and everything we could think of for basic survival.

      Yes! It was a very scary thing to do. I think we felt very traumatized and overwhelmed for the first few days. We were also very worried about how the birds and cat would adapt. But, we all adjusted really well once our tents were up.

      It's not easy living in a tent in the woods! Everything you take for granted in a house is a job; water, washing, heat, food, storage all take work and planning. You pay a lot more attention to weather, rain especially.

      Somehow the outdoor lifestyle seems to suit us. We eat healthy and get a lot of exercise. We always liked the outdoors and walking; we often walk to the nearest supermarket (2 miles away) and to the library (1 mile away0.

      In New York we rescued birds in a big way. Here in LAKEWOOD TENT CITY, we have been taken over by chickens! They are really an amazing bird; smart resilient and real drama queens. As vegans, we are especially sensitive to the plight of farm animals. It makes us very happy to provide at least some with the life they deserve.

      I guess at this point in our lives we need to move forward out Tent City. After a March 15th, 2013 court decision, it seems pretty definite that Lakewood Township is "closing" us down. I feel very badly about it. I always have been mystified that the camp has been viewed so negatively. To me, it is a creative and sustainable prototype community, that fill the needs of homeless people and "Housing Stressed" people and families. It's not perfect by any means, but why couldn't the local government work with Minister Steve Brigham and his dedicated volunteers and iron out the kinks and shortfalls?

      In any case, my dream Michael and I is for a Little Spot in the woods we and our birds can call home. I can deal with tent life, but I would like a little electricity and running water!!

      We'd like create a Living for ourselves by helping charities that help Homeless, Hungry & Struggling People and Animals become stronger and improve the lives of those they serve.

      I still consider myself a painter and would like enough space to set up a studio. Michael is longing to have a normal stove with 4 burners and an oven. So, we'll see; I'm not a religious person, but God has been good to us. We'll just have to see what the Universe has in the plans for us.

      Please feel free to write or call if you have any innovative ideas to alleviate Homelessness and help people rebuild their lives more sustainably.

      Marilyn

      Marilyn@...
      Marilyn.Berenzweig@...
      609-416-1363
    • Koin
      I heard of BLM land. Something having to do with land owned by the government and it is granted to people sometimes for a time if the cause is right. I do not
      Message 2 of 3 , May 26, 2013
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        I heard of BLM land. Something having to do with land owned by the government and it is granted to people sometimes for a time if the cause is right. I do not know for certain. Does anyone else know of this kind of thing? If so maybe that would help you. Get some Gov Appointed land meet the requirements and move a little bit of people there or a lot and if it is within the confines of the law maybe even receive grants and donations. I a Just throwing some stuff out there I have heard about. Check into it and maybe it will be what you are looking for.
      • C Brown
        Message 3 of 3 , May 26, 2013
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          On May 26, 2013, at 11:42 AM, marilyn.berenzweig wrote:

          > From April-2010-to-PRESENT: My Husband Michael and I have been Homeless. we are a couple in our early 60s who was middle class ($100,000+ per year income) until my job was eliminated in late 2009. We live in LAKEWOOD (NJ) TENT CITY.
          >
          > We are vegans, and are trying to rebuild our lives by creating a micro-enterprise that enables us to help non-profit organizations raise funds.
          >
          > MY BIOGRAPHY:
          >
          > I think I had a rather old-fashioned childhood, even for the times, and I always was a bit of a loner, I spent a lot of time in the woods near where I lived. I started painting and drawing very early (at three) and was a big reader. As early as I can remember I was very interested in animals and by the time I was six or seven I wanted to be a vegetarian, though in my family that was considered outrageous and not allowed.
          >
          > My family lived until I was eight with my mother's parents who had been homesteaders in North Dakota till my mother was a teen-ager, and I think I inherited certain skills from them.
          >
          > When it came time for higher education I went to Philadelphia College of Art. I guess I blossomed there, made, more friends than I'd had in the past, and eventually met Michael. We've been together now for over 40 years. You might say we are soul mates, though that does not mean we don't quarrel! But, our goal and interests mesh very well. Our most serious interest in animal and planetary welfare unites us.
          >
          > When our daughter reached school age I decided to make a career for myself in Textile Design, an industry which attracted many artists, and over the 30 odd years I worked I did quite well. I really liked my job on the whole- that is the actual work as opposed to the politics.
          >
          > Unfortunately, the industry has pretty much died here in the USA. It's mostly gone overseas, so in 2009 I lost my job and could not get another. I must have applied for 150-200 jobs, in different sectors and at all pay levels, but I did not have any success.
          >
          > As the major breadwinner of the household and with many mouths (and beaks) to feed this was a terrible time for me, knowing I was going to lose my job. I'd spend night after night lying awake trying t figure out what to do. I decided the best thing would be to consolidate households with our daughter and her family (husband and three kids) in the small house they rented in Queens. We'd help out with bills, groceries; do the cooking, cleaning and some of the childcare. Well, it should have worked out, and it could have worked out, but it did not. One day about 4 months in a big fight broke out and somehow everything fell apart. Our daughter asked us to leave, and really we needed to go.
          >
          > We had a few options and limited amount of income, but all out options depended on the kindness of our friends or family. But, to tell you the truth I'd had enough of that with my daughter!
          >
          > OUR EVOLUTION to HOMELESSNESS.
          >
          > One of my dear friends had many years earlier mentioned how with all the foreclosures and job loss going on that tent camps were springing up all over the country, and I thought that might work for us.
          >
          > I looked u p tent camps on the internet and came up with Tent
          > City, called the Reverend who runs it, and he said he had room for us. I was so relieved I cried.
          >
          > We took about a month to prepare for the move, read a lot about camping, bought a tent, and in early April 2010 our son-in-law drove us here in a very packed van. We brought our rescued birds, our cat with us, lots of books, food and everything we could think of for basic survival.
          >
          > Yes! It was a very scary thing to do. I think we felt very traumatized and overwhelmed for the first few days. We were also very worried about how the birds and cat would adapt. But, we all adjusted really well once our tents were up.
          >
          > It's not easy living in a tent in the woods! Everything you take for granted in a house is a job; water, washing, heat, food, storage all take work and planning. You pay a lot more attention to weather, rain especially.
          >
          > Somehow the outdoor lifestyle seems to suit us. We eat healthy and get a lot of exercise. We always liked the outdoors and walking; we often walk to the nearest supermarket (2 miles away) and to the library (1 mile away0.
          >
          > In New York we rescued birds in a big way. Here in LAKEWOOD TENT CITY, we have been taken over by chickens! They are really an amazing bird; smart resilient and real drama queens. As vegans, we are especially sensitive to the plight of farm animals. It makes us very happy to provide at least some with the life they deserve.
          >
          > I guess at this point in our lives we need to move forward out Tent City. After a March 15th, 2013 court decision, it seems pretty definite that Lakewood Township is "closing" us down. I feel very badly about it. I always have been mystified that the camp has been viewed so negatively. To me, it is a creative and sustainable prototype community, that fill the needs of homeless people and "Housing Stressed" people and families. It's not perfect by any means, but why couldn't the local government work with Minister Steve Brigham and his dedicated volunteers and iron out the kinks and shortfalls?
          >
          > In any case, my dream Michael and I is for a Little Spot in the woods we and our birds can call home. I can deal with tent life, but I would like a little electricity and running water!!
          >
          > We'd like create a Living for ourselves by helping charities that help Homeless, Hungry & Struggling People and Animals become stronger and improve the lives of those they serve.
          >
          > I still consider myself a painter and would like enough space to set up a studio. Michael is longing to have a normal stove with 4 burners and an oven. So, we'll see; I'm not a religious person, but God has been good to us. We'll just have to see what the Universe has in the plans for us.
          >
          > Please feel free to write or call if you have any innovative ideas to alleviate Homelessness and help people rebuild their lives more sustainably.
          >
          > Marilyn
          >
          > Marilyn@...
          > Marilyn.Berenzweig@...
          > 609-416-1363
          >
          >
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