Rev. Steven Brigham, of Lakewood Outreach Community Service Ministry, shows the way from Cedar Bridge Avenue in Lakewood, N.J., to reach the homeless encampment he founded five years ago.
Joe Giammona, 31, right, cooks lunch with Jerry Galante, 40, a former roofer originally from Tennessee who has been living at the site for three years.
A piano helps pass lazy afternoons and provides a creative outlet for some of the campsite's residents. Rev. Brigham, not pictured, also plays during Sunday services at the chapel seen here.
Tent City's most elaborately decorated residence -- complete with a locking door, sofa, recliner and kitchen area -- belongs to Elwood Hyers, 39, and Cynthia Vellinga, 33.
The exterior of Tent City's most well-decorated home.
Ruckus, a pit bull, stands guard near a camper's home.
Some structures in the campsite feature working windows, locking doors and aluminum siding.
On sunny days, residents of Tent City sometimes take this canoe to a nearby lake for a break from familiar surroundings.
Rev. Brigham inspects the shower/laundry room. Hot water is provided during winter and colder months via propane tanks.
Marilyn Berenzwieg, 60, previously of Queens, N.Y., worked as a textile designer before losing her job due to the sagging economy. She has since embraced living outside. "We manage to adapt and make the environment adapt to us, too," she said. "I could live here for the rest of my life, that wouldn't bother me."
Just as in other settings, yesterday's dirty dishes are often not a top priority.
Garbage burns alongside recycled materials lining the campsite's extensive garden.
The Tent City Chapel, where Rev. Brigham holds court every Sunday. "Come as you are," the sign reads.
Tarp-covered shacks line the campsite's main path, which empties directly onto Cedar Bridge Avenue in Lakewood, N.J.
Rev. Brigham, left, helps Giammona connect his cellphone to a generator.
Livestock freely roam the encampment, frequently interrupting the silence of the woods with loud crows. They also rid the campsite of potentially harmful insects like ticks, Rev. Brigham said.
It seems like a scene straight from "The Grapes of Wrath," but this is no Great Depression novel. This story takes place in 2011, and this Lakewood, N.J., tent city is one of dozens of such encampments across the United States, where unemployment has reached 9.1 percent and approximately 3.5 million people are likely to be homeless in a given year, according to recent estimates by the National Coalition for the Homeless.