Tent community members in Jackson share how they live

JACKSON, Tenn. — Area Relief Ministries says many are living in less fortunate circumstances within our city, but some of them choose to live on the outskirts within a tent community.

WBBJ 7 Eyewitness News Reporter Amanda Gerry was invited to visit one of those communities in the woods near downtown Jackson. Many people may not know how they live day to day. Amanda got a sneak peak.

“To me, it’s common sense to want to survive. That’s what I’m trying to do is survive,” said Terrance Merry, a member of a tent community.

Just past a row of trees, you would probably guess there’s animals, leaves and more trees, but in fact there’s an entire tent community that houses up to 25 people. We ventured into the woods to hear the stories of some people who call it home. Richard Lawane says life has been tough for him and his mom since his dad died.

“And everything just went downhill, and it got to the point where it was just like, couldn’t trust anybody else, and, let’s just put it this way — it made us fall,” Lawane said. “But we didn’t fall too hard to not try and not try to keep going and try to rebuild ourselves.”

But he says he’s determined to get back on his feet.

“If you don’t take it day to day, you’re not going to get much of anywhere,” Lawane said. “As long as you have a solid plan and you take that one step at a time, you’ll eventually get there.”

Terrance Merry cooks anything from pizza to pies on his homemade stove, and he says he owns more clothes than Walmart.

“I’m where I’m supposed to be, I think. Where my higher power wants me to be,” Merry said. “I’m doing OK.”

As for his neighbors, they look out for one another.

“We help each other out. Someone needs something, I have it and they need to use it, vice versa,” Merry said.

He says he rides his bike to wherever he needs to go, and many members of the community hold full-time jobs.

“Like I said, I may be somewhat homeless, but I’m not hopeless,” Merry said.

Tent community members say they wouldn’t be able to survive the way they do without the help of local organizations such as Area Relief Ministries, who offer donations as well as a variety of housing options for those in need.