Judge says tent city residents can stay -- for nowA judge in New Jersey — saying the government has a responsibility to provide for the poor — refused to evict residents from a makeshift camp that township officials claim is a dangerous public nuisance.
Since 2006, from 25 to 70 homeless people have been living in the communal setting. Lakewood officials want the camp closed, and point to serious injuries suffered by a handful of its residents from exploding propane tanks and the harsh elements.
"This is pure and simple a seizure of property," said Michael DeCicco, an attorney for Lakewood. "The importance of this decision, this case, I cannot overemphasize because in my view a decision allowing homeless individuals to remain on this property indefinitely ... would eviscerate centuries of Anglo Saxon property law."
The Rev. Steve Brigham, who founded Tent City through his Lakewood Outreach Ministry Church, has refused to close the camp, claiming Lakewood and Ocean County do not provide adequate shelter for the homeless.
The county says it provides more than enough resources, all that it can afford, and contends some residents have refused the services offered.
But Jeffrey Wild, an attorney for the Tent City residents, says the county and township’s remedy — paying $100 a night for motel stays — is only a Band-Aid. He says the poor in Ocean County need a shelter and affordable housing. Read his legal brief here.
Judge Joseph Foster said he wanted to hold a hearing to decide whether Lakewood has legal grounds for removing the residents from the wooded area where they live. But Foster also said they could not stay there forever.
"What the parties will have to address here is the ultimate remedy," he told a crowd of more than 30 Tent City residents and supporters crammed into his courtroom.
Read the Newark Star-Ledger report here. And for more details on the court proceeding, check out the Homeless in Ocean County blog.