We continue to make progress in the litigation and, at the same time, remain keenly aware of the news -- some tragic, some inspiring -- that underscored the importance of the Coalition and its mission of ending homelessness.
On one hand, we were saddened to hear this week about Amador: a homeless man in Lakewood who died in a fire in the tent where he was sleeping, trying to keep warm in the winter cold. Contrary to some media reports, this tragedy did not occur in the Lakewood Tent City (Amador's tent was in another part of Lakewood, off Route 88), but this needless death is a poignant example of why everyone should have access to safe, indoor housing.
On the other hand, the nation was inspired by Samantha Garvey: the Long Island teen who was living in a shelter when she made semifinalist in the Intel Science Talent Search and suddenly found herself invited to the State of the Union. Samantha is another, living reminder that even the most talented and hard-working among us can find themselves homeless due to circumstances beyond their control.
With all of the homeless in mind, we move forward with (among other things) the Ocean County Homeless Litigation. This week, the litigants selected a highly experienced mediator, Edward J. McKenna, Jr., with whom the parties will meet to try and reach a settlement to address the lack of any available shelter in Ocean County. Until then, the litigation moves forward simultaneously. This week, we served the County with extensive discovery requests (document demands and interrogatories), so that we can continue to move forward towards trial if no settlement is reached. Hopefully, Ocean County and Lakewood will choose cooperation over litigation.
Of course, the problem of homelessness goes far beyond Ocean County. This week, as part of the "Point-In-Time" count conducted each January, homeless were counted in every single one of New Jersey's 21 counties. Only a small fraction of New Jersey's homeless can be counted in a single night, and the actual number of homeless men, women and children is a large multiple of any "Point-In-Time" count. However, as long as we have our Coalition, none of them is alone.