|Sherry Rubel Photo: Kevin and his puppy taking a walk in Tent City a few months ago.|
Photographer Sherry Rubel tells the story of Kevin, who moved to New Jersey from Michigan to be with his girlfriend but ended up in Tent City. Something Kevin told Sherry struck me -- offering a bit of insight into why so many men and women forgo the shelter system and choose to stay out on the streets. Kevin has a dog and Tent City was one of the few places that would let him keep it.
Over the summer, Julia Orlando, who runs the amazing shelter and social sevices facility in Bergen County -- Bergen Housing, Health and Human Services -- said that those who find themselves homeless often are unwilling to give up even the most meaningless of possessions. Many are unwilling to admit that they have bottomed out and the possessions they've chosen to grasp onto are just weights tied to their ankles, keeping them from rising back to the service.
For many, this makes sense. For many, this aggressive unwillingness to let go of material things does hold them back.
But what about a pet -- like Kevin's dog. Dogs are not possessions in the traditional sense, no matter how the law treats them. They are much more. They are family members. They show us the best of our humanity, are loyal (as the cliche goes) and they are wholly dependent on their pack leaders.
We need to respect that.
The Tent City Project is an artistic look at human rights issues facing residents of a homeless camp in Lakewood, NJ and its connection to the growing number of tent cities across the country. See our Facebook page for more information -- and don't forget to "Like" us.