After nearly 7 years of fighting, city officials and residents of Lakewood’s Tent City have finally come to an agreement to assist homeless adults in the area.
An agreement between the residents of Lakewood, New Jersey’s, so called Tent City, which is situated near the Jersey shore, and Lakewood officials was reached Friday afternoon which ensures none of the residents will be evicted from the camp without “first being provided adequate indoor housing for at least one year.” According to the Associated Press, the encampment will “gradually be phased out,” by providing the 80 or so residents with at least 1 year of safe, indoor housing. The agreement will hopefully end the need for the tent city, and would also put an end to a dispute that has raged for 7 years about “local governments’ responsibility to care for the poor.” The attorney for the residents of the tent city, Jeffrey Wild said,
No one can be forced out of where they are now unless they are offered safe and adequate housing indoors. That’s all we ever wanted. We’re not here to defend Tent Cities; no one should have to live in the woods. This is about the right of everyone to have housing.
Officials of Lakewood, and Ocean County have been fighting to shut down the camp for several years now, but with no shelter for homeless adults anywhere in the region advocates argue “the governments’ have not done enough to provide safe housing” for the residents they are attempting to evict, most of who have nowhere else to go. Officials have even gone so far as to threaten “daily fines of $1,000 for each of the site’s 100 tents and 80 wood burning stoves.” The mayor called conditions int he camp “disgusting” and “horrendous.” However, if the residents of the tent city can’t afford adequate housing, the would obviously be incapable of paying fines of that magnitude. An attorney for the county welfare board, Jean Cipriani explained that their goal is to find a way to make the camp unnecessary. She said, “”Everyone’s end game is to close it and for everyone to find shelter.”
The agreement must still be ratified by the residents of the camp, as well as Lakewood officials, and there are still many details that “remain to be hammered out.” They have not yet decided who is responsible for deciding what housing would be considered “appropriate,” or what type of housing will even be provided. Whether it be a new shelter built specifically for the homeless in the area, converting a building that already exists into a group shelter or individual residences, or even scattering the residents throughout several different sites through “rental assistance programs.”
However they decide to work out these issues, the fact remains that with this agreement nearly 100 homeless in New Jersey will finally be given the assistance they need to begin to put their lives back together.
Photo: AP/Wayne Parry