Undetectable to most of us, New Jersey is dotted with scores of tent cities housing the mentally ill, people down on their luck, or some who simply eschew a suburban lifestyle.

In a recent report:,a local TV reporter follows up on a tip from a neighbor who leads her to one tent city in Browns Mills.



The reporter finds that:

This is a community of people in Browns Mills, New Jersey where some have lived deep in the woods for as long as 20 years. Meg (the reporter) had to first gain the people’s trust before they would take her on a tour of their community among the trees.

She first heard about this group of people from volunteers at the Christian Caring Center which often helps with food and services for the homeless. One volunteer tells Meg that on average, the cost of a single homeless person to taxpayers is about $14,480 per year.

The people in this community don’t have many other options. Most of them are unemployed and Burlington County doesn’t offer homeless shelters to help get them out of the woods.

After talking to many of the residents of this community, Meg discovered that most of these people are just down on their luck. They can’t afford to pay rent or live on their own and many feel they are forced to be there.

Back in the studio the chasers (various reporters) discuss ways that the local towns and the state can help these people. The focus was on the need for job creation and shelters to help get these people back on their feet.

The question is how to help people who either won’t or can’t help themselves.

The aforementioned volunteers are doing God's work for sure, but face insurmountable obstacles, such as some of the residents are alcoholic, others, despite having no addresses are collecting Social Security disability pensions but can’t live on their meager monthly stipends.

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Where do we, as Jerseyans come in, and what can we do if anything?

Does the state have an obligation to help the “people of the woods” in Browns Mills, or for that matter, the people of the many tent cities around the state?