I am deeply saddened to report that Jesus "Zeus" Santos, a resident of the Lakewood tent city, died in the woods today, leaving a fiancée and three young children. Zeus' death was a tragedy. Through our Coalition, Zeus had asked the Government for the help he needed -- but he had been turned down as "ineligible" for shelter and the other help he needed.
Back in April, Zeus was living in the tent city with his fiancée, Diane, who was seven-months pregnant. A member of our Coalition, Karen Darling, volunteered and took Zeus and Diane to Social Services. Diane was deemed "eligible" and she and the children were given help, thanks to Karen. But Zeus was turned down for help because he had a drug conviction on his record: one of the many holes in the supposed safety net for the homeless and most desperate. As recently as this month, Zeus was doing the best he could in the woods, including a temporary job that he had gotten through another tent city resident. But Zeus could not beat his drug problem living alone in the woods. As the research on the principle of Housing First shows, it is almost impossible for anyone to get their life back on track without an address. Zeus -- who was in his early 30s and should have been eligible for emergency shelter and a rehab program -- overdosed and died early this morning, after unsuccessful CPR efforts. As our Coalition member, Karen, so accurately put it: " Zeus fell through the cracks, and now he's dead."
Tonight, Diane and the children (a one-month-old baby, a four-year-old girl and an eight-year-old boy) are not in the woods, but Zeus should never have died there, alone and homeless. Tragedies like this are the reason we need our Coalition. In Zeus' memory, the Coalition will redouble its efforts for social justice. Let's keep doing everything we can to make sure that a day comes when no one has to live or die homeless.
Jeffrey J. Wild Member of the Firm Lowenstein Sandler PC 65 Livingston Avenue Roseland, NJ 07068 973-597-2554 (direct telephone) 973-597-2555 (direct fax) -and- 1251 Avenue of the Americas New York, NY 10020