Lakewood tent city to close permanently; final residents have been evicted

A controversial homeless camp in Lakewood is being torn down and many living there say they aren't sure where they are going to go. (5/29/14)

LAKEWOOD - A controversial homeless camp in Lakewood is being torn down and many living there say they aren't sure where they are going to go.

Manny Leon says he doesn't know where he'll live after Sunday, the day he must leave the tent city. "If they set us on the street, you know desperate people can meet desperate things," he says.

Leon is among the 30 or so homeless people living in the campsite off of Cedar Bridge Avenue. Cynthia Vellinga has called it home for five years.

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"People think that we're a bunch of homeless people running around that don't have anything, that are just bums or pieces of crap," she says. "But we're not, we're human beings."

The tent city community popped up more than seven years ago. As the economy soured, the population soared to nearly 125 people and many Lakewood residents complained about pollution and danger. 

The remaining residents have been evicted and will be relocated by court order. "Lakewood Township pays for one year of housing for them," says the Rev. Steve Brigham, tent city organizer.

Residents say that life is hard there, but moving may be even more difficult since many feel at home there.

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