Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pastor Michael Mazer's comments before the OC Freeholders Oct. 19

Our presentation to the Freeholders last Wednesday was to show that homelessness is a social justice issue, not a political issue.  The following are Pastor Michael  Mazer's comments to the Freeholders.

Rev. Dr. Michael M. Mazer, pastor of East Dover Baptist Church
974 Bay Avenue
Toms River, N.J. 08753

“I begin by thanking the Board of Freeholders for allowing me to speak this afternoon.

The subject of homelessness has been on your agenda for a number of years. The subject of homelessness in Ocean County has been the subject of news articles in our local paper, the Wall Street Journal, and even abroad as well as television coverage. More recently, you have given it a much increased focus. I want to commend you on the numerous efforts made to address homelessness and your willingness to hear us today.

It is a given that the problem of homelessness and the numbers of area residents that are just a mortgage payment away from becoming so is growing. I serve a congregation of eighty members. Some came to our church from a homeless situation. For a few, the fear of losing their home is very real. There are others who are active in supporting the residents living in “Tent City.” It is an act of grace and providence that we meet our financial obligations each week.

Whether we are speaking of my congregation or any other resident of Ocean County, the need to reduce and ultimately eliminate the problem of homelessness must be addressed.

To this end I believe we are heading in the right direction. This quote comes from the Ocean County Board of Social Services, “NO ONE SHOULD BE WITHOUT A ROOF OVER THEIR HEAD. EVERYDAY WE WORK TO MAKE CERTAIN OUR RESIDENTS DO NOT GO HUNGRY OR HOMELESS.”

To assure our residents that they do not go hungry or homeless will depend on a number of factors: availability of affordable housing, their location, access, and the availablity of other services promoting one’s wellbeing.

Having a place to call “home” is more than just putting a roof over one’s head. It speaks of the right each Ocean County resident has to live with a quality of life that includes a standard of decent health, the ability to get an education, the ability to secure employment, the ability to participate as productive member of society, to associate with their peers, and the privilege to vote on who will be their freeholder.

It is my observation that some of the strife and conflict stemming from the subjest of homeless has come from the approach to the subject. Perhaps we should address the matter of homelessness not as a welfare issue but as a resident’s rights issue. This approach will not in and of itself eliminate the problem. This approach will however consider the homeless in a new light. This approach will no longer cast homeless individuals as statistics and the objects of charity and help. They are people in Ocean County who deserve the same consideration and access to public services most of us in this room take for granted.

Let us assume that the Freeholders have done all that the state and federal laws allow. What barriers exist that keep the Freeholders from doing more? I would like to think that we expect more from ourselves than just meeting a basic and arbitrary minimum standard. We are Ocean County and we expect to strive for the best and to live at our best.

If you are of the mind to do more for the residents of Ocean County but find yourselves tied by the law, tell us what is needed to change the law and guide us in this process. We want to help you help the entire constituency of Ocean County.

I conclude by thanking you again for allowing me to speak to you on this subject. Rest assured that there are many people in addition to those of here this afternoon who want to help you and work with you on addressing and ultimately ending the problem of homelessness in Ocean County. Please accept our offers of help and support.You will feel better about what we are able to accomplish together. You will feel better about yourself and you will sleep in perfect peace tonight. Thank you.”

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