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Tent City residents head to court

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(File/MyFoxNY.com) (File/MyFoxNY.com)
NEW JERSEY (MYFOXNY.COM) -

A disabled nurse, homeless veterans, a pregnant woman, and a supermarket bagger fired for taking care of her drying boyfriend are all living in tents in the woods near the Jersey shore.

They are among the 80 or so homeless residents of Lakewood's Tent City who are telling their stories to a judge who will decide the fate of the camp.

Among the reams of paperwork the judge will consider in a hearing on Friday are the stories of 16 of the camp's residents. They explain how illness, the loss of a job, or other factors led them to the camp. They all say they want to leave for better housing.

Lakewood and Ocean County want the township-owned camp closed.

Tent City's numbers have doubled in the past year.

One couple that has lived in Tent City for two years have settled in so nicely that they have curtains and flowers in their wood-framed tent.

Elwood E. Hyers says, "Instead of being depressed that you're homeless, at least this way you're going inside and saying 'wow'. You shut the door and don't feel homeless."

They even have even erected a mail box in font of their tent with Paradise Lane written as the address.

The population is now around 100 people. Many are from New York City.

Pastor Steve Bringham set up the camp. He had a kitchen and a working bathroom. It even has a washer and dryer. It is funded by donations from local churches.

Marilyn Berenzweiger, an unemployed fashion designer, says the makeshift camp make her feel safe.

"There is a lot of protection here. We feel very comfortable," Berenweiger says.

Residents of Tent City recently held an election to approve rules for the camp, and to elect delegates to represent their interests in dealings with the outside world.

Gregory "Pops" Maple was 1 of 3 Tent City residents chosen to represent the camp. The 62-year-old's best qualification may be that he's a great listener.

This was the seventh winter for the camp, but the first with any regulations.

They include respecting each other and keeping the peace. Drugs and illegal weapons are prohibited. No going into someone else's tent without their permission.

Issues in the election included who gets the next available heater.

Copyright 2013  MyFoxNY.com/AP

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