Formerly Middle-Class Americans Move into Tents

It’s amazing the suffering that goes on in this miserable economy, and how little attention it gets in the American press. The article posted below about middle-aged, formerly middle class people living in tents in New Jersey with cold weather coming on appeared in a British newspaper.

Even so, Washington continues to admit a million legal immigrant workers annually. Why is there no time-out on legal immigration while so many citizens are jobless and running out of savings, unemployment insurance and other resources? The best we have gotten out of the Republican House of Representatives is a flawed e-verify bill crafted to please the Chamber of Commerce.

Below, Marilyn Berenzweig lives in a New Jersey tent city, a far cry from her earlier lifestyle.

Recent CIS research (Who Benefited from Job Growth in Texas) found that “Of jobs created in Texas since 2007, 81 percent were taken by newly arrived immigrant workers (legal and illegal).”

Massive job loss is worsening as economic pundits forecast a double-dip recession, while the few jobs that are available are given to cheap and exploitable foreigners. Americans are getting hosed by open borders, and nobody will name the enemy, specifically a federal government addicted to open borders and disinterested in the well-being of American citizens.

Once prosperous New Yorkers forced to live under canvas in New Jersey woods, London Telegraph, September 25, 2011

The white picket fence and manicured flowerbeds outside 1 Paradise Lane are straight from a picture postcard of idyllic suburban American life in the 1950s.

But its walls are no more than canvas. Its porch overlooks smouldering bonfires and scrawny hens scratching at dirt. And mail never arrives in the letterbox that was hand-painted by Marilyn Berenzweig.

Mrs Berenzweig, 61, used to make $100,000 (£63,333) a year as a designer in New York’s garment district. Now she and her husband Michael are down and out in ‘Tent City’ in Lakeland, New Jersey. There is no electricity or running water and racoons steal their food. “It’s not an easy life,” she said.

She and Mr Berenzweig, a former radio producer, are two of the 27 million Americans out of work or under-employed as recession stalks the US once more.

New census figures this month showed that more than one in seven is now in poverty, surviving on less than $11,139 (£7,054) a year each or $22,314 (£14,132) for a family of four.

The couple had to leave their $2,000 (£1,266)-a-month house after Marilyn lost her job. They lived with their 40-year-old daughter and her family for four months before a row drove them out.

After reaching the 90-week limit for unemployment benefits, they now receive less than $100 (£63) per week between them in food stamps. “The nearest supermarket is 2.5 miles away,” she said. “Usually we walk”. Social security will kick in only when she is 62, and her modest pension at 65.

“I’m scared about how life is going in America,” said Mrs Berenzweig. “I hope we’ll move into an apartment again one day. But we need money.”

Clutching a pay-as-you-go mobile phone that she recharges at the library, Mrs Berenzweig said the couple dread the coming winter, their second in Tent City. “You try to dress real warm and keep active,” she said. “But the cat’s food freezes when you put it on the floor”.

Officially there are 700,000 homeless people in the US. According to the UN, America’s refusal to guarantee them access to water and sanitation, and its “criminalisation” of homelessness, is a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That lack of safety net has seen similar tent cities sprout up in states such as Rhode Island, Colorado, Washington, California and Virginia.

The seven-acre camp in New Jersey, 50 feet down a dirt track off a state highway, was founded by Steve Brigham, a pastor and out-of-work electrical engineer, who lost his own home after a divorce and now lives among those he tries to help.

“Last year we had 40 people, this year it’s 70,” said Mr Brigham, 51. “We’re seeing people who have fallen further than before,” he said. “They were middle-class, lost their work and now they’re here. They are a prime example of America today.”

The site’s lavatory is an “old-fashioned pit in the ground” surrounded by a slim wooden frame. The kitchen is a mouldy 1970s caravan containing a greasy gas stove. Flies dart around the empty boxes of five pizzas donated by local takeaways at closing time the previous night.

For heat, some residents have log-burning stoves perched precariously inside their tents. Water for washing comes from a shack covering a crude well dug by three men from the camp. Drinking water must be bought using donated funds.

Across the path is Angelo Villanueva, a 45-year-old masonry worker who until recently earned $40,000 (£25,000) a year. “Work died out because of the recession,” he said. “It hit construction pretty big. I couldn’t afford to keep my apartment”.

Mr Villanueva stayed with his brother for six months. “But he’s married and I don’t want to encroach,” he said. His tent is penned in by a sturdy home-made fence. He practices martial arts while considering applying to train to be a physiotherapist’s assistant.

He is counting on the $450 billion (£285 billion) jobs plan recently unveiled by the US President. “Every now and then I catch fragments of news from the outside world,” he said. “I’m hoping Obama’s bill does something positive. I’m hoping it works. It’s got to stimulate something.”

Showing off his mountain bike and solar-powered outdoor shower, he said the camp was “a place to regroup and re-establish myself in the workplace”.

He may have to move fast, however. Lakeland authorities have launched a legal bid to tear down the camp and evict its residents from public land. With no right to shelter, they would have to compete for the handful of motel rooms offered nightly by the county.

Mr Brigham and the tenants are fighting the case with Jeffrey Wild, a New York attorney working for free. “This is the ground zero of the financial crisis,” said Mr Wild. “These people are that worse-case scenario you always hope never happens to you”.

In fact, it can happen to anyone, said Mr Wild, whose father was raised in New York during the Great Depression and frequently “had to leave in the middle of the night when the rent was due”.

“We have commercial artists, occupational therapists, small business owners who went bankrupt,” he said. “More and more white-collar workers.” Mr Wild is preparing a class action lawsuit on behalf of all the homeless people in Lakeland, demanding the right to basic shelter.

Without it, the mentally bruised residents of Tent City seem most anxious about having to once again beg relatives. “They all have their own families to feed,” said Mrs Berenzweig. “My mother is still alive, she’s 93. She thinks I’m still living in New York. If she found out about this, she would just die.”

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