There were a number of developments in court yesterday, some good but some not. Our support of the homeless is more important than ever:
1. Lakewood Tent City in Jeopardy. For more than a year, Lakewood abided by the Consent Order in the litigation; supported our efforts to get help from Ocean County; and did not pursue its request that the Court eject the homeless from the Lakewood Tent City. Under the Consent Order, Lakewood agreed to hold off on pursuing an ejectment of Tent City's residents while we worked to cooperate in solving the problem of homelessness by bringing the County into the case. But at the first conference yesterday before the newly assigned judge, the Hon. Joseph L. Foster, one of the attorneys for Lakewood announced, without explanation, that Lakewood now intends to pursue its request for ejectment. I have reached out for Lakewood's lead litigator and will see how, if at all, the Coalition can continue to work with Lakewood to address the underlying problem: that Tent City's residents have nowhere else to go. Let's give Lakewood the benefit of the doubt until our Coalition's efforts to cooperate with Lakewood are exhausted. But if Lakewood is not part of the solution, it is part of the problem.
2. Next Steps in Litigation. If and when Lakewood files papers to seek ejectment, we will respond with papers of our own and pursue all appropriate litigation defenses and affirmative claims against Lakewood. It will be at least several weeks before any hearing before Judge Foster on any ejectment motion that Lakewood files. The details of those papers could also be very important -- for example, whether Lakewood is seeking immediate ejectment of all of the residents without giving them any place to go, or whether Lakewood will ask Judge Foster to do something short of that (we think) unconscionable position. Also, in the good-news department, Judge Foster approved a schedule under which: (a) the Ocean County Board of Social Services will be providing us, by September 27th, with documents that we can use to amplify our claims against the County, such as details about how many people the County turns away and how much money the County wastes on expensive motel rooms; (b) we will file amended and expanded claims against the County by October 27th; and (c) the County and Lakewood were ordered to attend a combined settlement status conference and settlement conference on Tuesday, November 15th at 9 a.m.
3. How You Can Help
A. Next Court Date. If you are in the Toms River area, please stand side by side (literally) with the homeless at the next court date on November 15th at 9 a.m. The court conference will be at 100 Hooper Avenue (just north of Washington Street), Courtroom #3, in Toms River. I will also, of course, let you know when a hearing is scheduled on any motion that Lakewood files to shut down Tent City.
B. Formation of Statewide Coalition. Our grass-roots coalition in Ocean County has been great, and now seems like the time to take it to the next level: a statewide organization dedicated solely to fighting and ending homelessness in New Jersey. We need a coalition that can bring together the energy, skills and resources of all the people and organizations who care deeply about the tens of thousands who are homeless in NJ each year. I have spoken to some of you about a vision of forming the Coalition for the Homeless of New Jersey (the "Coalition"). I will be in touch soon with more details about the Coalition and ways that you might consider getting involved, including (but not limited to) donating your time, skills, funds and/or other resources, so that together we can keep making a difference in the lives of NJ's most desperate men, women and children.