Homeless And Homeless Advocates March Through Lakewood [AUDIO]
With posters and candles in hand, over 100 people marched from the Lakewood Tent City site on Cedar Bridge Avenue into downtown Lakewood Tuesday evening to bring attention to the individuals who are so chronically homeless, they've resorted to living in the woods.
At issue is not the hundreds of people who are being housed by the Ocean County Board of Social Services but the dozens who are falling through the cracks of the social service safety net.
Vera, a Tent City resident says she's been living in the woods since 2005. "Oh no, they told me that I couldn't get help to 2015 cause I went to prison." Another Tent City Resident, originally from Point Pleasant, says he's been homeless for 11 years. He says he spent many of those years living under a train station bridge in Asbury Park before residing in Tent City. He says he requested help from Ocean County Social Services in Toms River at least ten times and says "they refuse me every time. Told me that they didn't believe I was homeless and that I ain't gettin a place."
Mike McNeil of STEPS, a group that's been working to find housing for the homeless, says there's just no workable solution for some of them. "We must have had about at least five people in our office today that falls between that crack and I think that that's one of the things that we've gotta work on and I think that we're going to need some help from our State Government."
Minister Steve Brigham, who runs Tent City in Lakewood, told the crowd during the Candle Light vigil, "We want our neighbors and fellow our citizens of Ocean County to have the decency of a nice warm place to live. It's just a basic human right!"
Video by Tom Mongelli
They were joined by people from every walk of life including Ann Weinstein from Howell who's a part of the new Howell Rebel Foundation where children and families help the less fortunate. Weinstein says Tent City is at the top of their list and they bring food to the homeless a couple of Sunday's each month. Weinstein says "We need to get the community to give Affordable housing for Ocean County. The have it in Monmouth County, In Middlesex County but Ocean County doesn't have enough affordable housing for people.
Rabbi Steve Gold from Temple Beth Am Shalom of Lakewood read from the book of Deuteronomy explaining the Biblical mandate to help the poor. Gold stressed it's not only an obligation of religious groups and individuals but to the Government as well. Gold says "this obligation also rest upon government. Private charities, individuals we're overwhelmed. The Torah, scripture, isn't just to create moral people but moral societies."
The march was a preemptive move in advance of a December court hearing to evict the Tent City residents.
Homeless advocates are vowing to continue to hold marches and vigils to bring attention to the homeless situation. McNeil says "You know, we want to make everybody aware of the homeless, not just in Lakewood, but this is going to go on to every town. We're going to continue until somebody recognizes that there are people out here that truly truly needs help."