Thursday, April 4, 2013

Great news for Tent City residents

April 4, 2013

Today is a great day for the homeless of Tent City, and for all advocates for the homeless who have worked so hard, for so long.  The first attachment to this email is a letter that we just submitted to the Court, which encloses the final Consent Order relating to the litigation with Lakewood.  Among other things, this Consent Order:  (1) guarantees that all of Tent City’s current residents (including anyone who is living in Tent City and counted in a census that will soon be done) may not be ejected by Lakewood unless and until those residents are first offered a plan that provides for (and actually provides) safe and adequate housing for at least a full year; (2) gives this right -- without any “disqualifiers” or set deadline for the closing of Tent City -- to all of the current residents (at least those who cooperate in an agreed-upon census and screening process, which includes strict protections for privacy and confidentiality); and (3) requires Lakewood to dismiss all of the charges that it filed in municipal court and elsewhere about supposed “code violations” in Tent City.  In short, this Consent Order gives the people of Tent City everything they wanted, and more, given that a year or more of housing equates to the federal definition of permanent housing, not just emergency shelter.  And the news gets better.
The second attachment to this email is a letter agreement that supplements the Consent Order and imposes additional obligations on Lakewood until the last current resident has obtained housing.  Lakewood is now required to:  (1) provide pick-up of trash deposited for collection by Tent City’s residents (including regular and adequate collections by Lakewood from the trash containers and 30-yard dumpster); (2) permit the servicing of the portable toilets in Tent City; (3) allow supporters of the current residents to deliver food, clothing and other necessary supplies into Tent City (so long as any supporter’s vehicle departs from Tent City after the delivery has been completed); and (4) permit the holes in the main dirt road to be filled with dirt and leveled, in order to make the road passable for emergency vehicles (after receipt and approval by Lakewood of a written proposal for this work, which approval cannot be unreasonably withheld).  Lakewood has also agreed that Minister Steve Brigham has the option of continuing to live in Tent City until the day comes when all of the current residents have housing.  The Court will also retain jurisdiction to enforce the Consent Order and make sure Lakewood complies with all of its obligations.

Finally, after decades of refusing to do so, Ocean County and the Board of Social Services have agreed to sit down to discuss establishing the first housing center (shelter) in Ocean County.  As a show of good will, the Atlantic City Rescue Mission (the “Mission”) has dismissed its claims against the County “without prejudice,” meaning that the Mission is free to file suit again in the hopefully unlikely event that the discussions with the County about cooperation do not yield progress.  Given, however, the substantial new funding that is becoming available post-Sandy, the opportunities for cooperation seem greater than ever before.  The Mission will also welcome input from other non-profits about possible ways to develop a housing center in Ocean County.

This is a great day, but much work remains to be done.  We will continue to stand with the people of Tent City, and continue to work for the day when homelessness in Ocean County is no more.

(As soon as I figure out how to insert the attachments I'll post them for your reading pleasure.  Larry)