Thursday, December 5, 2013

APP Editorial: Homelessness a county issue

The Asbury Park Press wrote an editorial Tuesday that reminded its readers of the humanity of the homeless men, women and children.  It also called attention to the failures of Lakewood Township and Ocean County in working to house the homeless.

"While Lakewood bears some responsibility for the safety and long-term disposition of the residents there, no one should expect a municipality to take on the whole problem by itself. Ocean County should be providing the leadership and the lion’s share of funding for either building a county homeless shelter or providing alternative housing for Tent City’s residents.

"On the other hand, for nearly five years Lakewood has consistently made life hard for the people who live there, spending taxpayer money on fighting court battles to evict them instead of working to find them alternative housing."

Click here to read the entire editorial.

Two Ocean County Freeholders took exception to the editorial at Wednesday's Freeholder meeting in Toms River.

According to the Asbury Park Press, "Ocean County Freeholder John C. Bartlett Jr. said he is furious with the Asbury Park Press and expressed outrage with a front page story published Tuesday that questioned whether the county has done enough to help its homeless population, which included the headline: “Is it time for Ocean County to build a homeless shelter?”

“I am rather tired of hearing that Ocean County is doing nothing to aid people who are homeless in this county, that is an unmitigated untruth,” Bartlett said during a regular public meeting of the freeholders.

“And the fact of the matter is, in reference to ‘Tent City’ in Lakewood, there are many people there who want to be there,” Bartlett said. “Tent City is an outgrowth of the fact that Lakewood Township allowed it to be built and maintained, provided services to it and therefore in a sense became owners of it.”

Freeholder Director Jack Kelly said there is a difference here in philosophies. He said people needed to be more self-reliant and work with social services to do more to help themselves.

“What Freeholder Bartlett is talking about, at Tent City, when he says they would rather be there, they would rather be there than deal with government,” Kelly said. “Because government comes with it the obligation and responsibility of the individual.”

The complete article can be read by clicking here.

Lakewood Deputy Mayor Steven Langert and Committeeman Ray Coles appeared at WOBM's station Tuesday to add to the discussion.

According to WOBM, "The duo didn’t shy away from talking about their continuing efforts to close down Tent City and find housing for its residents. They also addressed its high density growth plans."

"Committeeman Ray Coles said local anti-poverty group STEPS (Solutions To End Poverty Soon) is working on finding housing. He explained they’re trying to put together leases for a half dozen apartments in Lakewood and surrounding communities. “We’re looking to see what we can do as far as finding an affordable place with decent access to transportation and also to make sure that the support services that are going to be critical to insure that these people survive and thrive in these locations,” he said."

"However, they agree there’s little they can do for an estimated 60 Tent City residents who refuse help. “Because they’re not in their right minds,” according to Coles. “I hate to put it like that but there are people out there who don’t know how to take care of themselves and unfortunately in this country we can’t force them to accept help,” he said."

The complete story can be read at WOBM by clicking here.

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