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US tent city shut down

June 06 2010
New Jersey encampment closed after church steps in to promise its rersidents  housing
A homeless tent city has been closed down after a church promised its residents free housing for a year.

The encampment in Camden, New Jersey (one of America's poorest cities), was disbanded last month when the 50 people who had lived there were taken to a hotel before being given homes for 12 months.

The last day for the tent city, also known as Transitional Park, came three weeks after a deadline to close the place came and went; social service agencies had been unable to find all the residents places to live. Many of the residents - some who had lived there for three years - wanted to live under roofs, but they did not want to be moved around by government agencies.

The generous helpline came from pastor and businessman Amir Khan, who was moved into action after seeing a video of the camp, which is hidden on public land between train tracks and a highway. Mr Khan said he couldn't sleep for days after he saw the site's conditions, including no running water or electricity. He said: "We said, 'How dare we live in the lap of luxury and have this in our backyard." With the help of his church, they have raised more than $25,000 (17,000) and hope, ultimately, to raise 10 times this amount.

But some residents were anxious about the camp's closure. Jason Strom, 31, said: "If I came to their home and said, 'Pack up and come with me,' how would they feel?" He was also worried that with no access to drugs, that some people were going to be sick during the hotel stay.