Tent City, located in Lakewood, NJ, has been home to up to 100 residents for the past 7 years. Local residents have been calling for the closure of the camp since it began. The town succeeded in forcing out most of the residents by August 2014. Some were offered one year of rent-free housing in neighboring towns. Others were given $3,000 in cash to agree to leave town. The remainder were unable to accept either offer because of outstanding arrest warrants.

The aim of my work was to provide an honest look at life inside the camp and thus better inform policy (being decided outside the camp). I wanted to make a document that can be used as a reference for people wanting to address the issue of homelessness. For those critical of the town residents, perhaps their position would be understood after seeing life in the camp. And yet for those who decided to relocate camp residents to residential neighborhoods without substance abuse or psychotherapeutic services, perhaps they will see that any solution is flawed unless it addresses the deeper psychological issues the camp residents are facing. Finally, for those who donated food and clothing to the residents, I hope they question whether or not they may be enabling the residents’ addictions.

While raising such questions, I wanted my work to emphasize the residents’ humanity and encourage people to become active in advocating for the homeless—but to do so in a thoughtful, non-clichéd manner.

—Christopher Occhicone

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