Saturday, May 7, 2011

Jeff Wild: Homeless case still alive in the courts

I am pleased to report that the litigation on behalf of Ocean County's homeless continues.  As you may recall, the County asked the judge to dismiss all claims by the homeless that they have a legal right to shelter under NJ law.

The judge denied the County's motion to dismiss our claim that there is a right to shelter under a NJ statute, the Poor Laws.  The judge also said that we should amend this claim within 45 days to add more specifics about the existing NJ statutes relating to homelessness and the legal standard that we contend the County has failed to meet.

The judge observed, correctly, that the NJ Supreme Court has never decided the question of whether there is a right to shelter under New Jersey's constitution.  Because of the absence of such a holding the NJ Supreme Court (at least so far), the judge granted the County's motion to dismiss our separate count based on the NJ Constitution.  However, the case continues past today based on the other counts (our statutory claim plus our claim for "recoupment" of any expenses that we prove were not paid by the County in violation of a legal duty.  We have ordered the transcript and will need to study the judge's rulings in more detail.

Given that the case is still addressing the affirmative claims by the homeless against the County, the judge has not yet reached  the defenses of the homeless to Lakewood's Complaint seeking to eject the homeless from the woods without any other place to go.  Thus, In the meantime, the homeless have not been ejected and the tent city is safe for now.

Finally. The turnout today was fabulous.  The courtroom was filled with homeless men, women and children, together with many members of our Coalition, including advocates for the homeless (non-attorneys and attorneys) and members of the clergy and local congregations of many faiths (including Christian and Jewish congregations), plus students and representatives of the media.  No one can predict what will happen as the litigation continues, but one thing is certain:  with a Coalition like ours supporting them, the homeless are not alone.

Thanks to everyone!


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