Nine homeless residents currently live in the homeless encampment located on the parcel of land that has been sold. The residents of the Lakewood homeless encampment have 30 days to vacate the property once the sale closes, which may take several months.
In April 2017, Howell officials sanctioned the encampment, allowing the homeless to stay on the town owned property. Destiny’s Bridge, a nonprofit run by Steve Brigham, runs the camp.
Each resident of the camp signed a release stating their understanding that the encampment is a temporary residence. There was no tenant-landlord relationship with the township and the tenants agreed the municipality could close the camp at any time to sell it.
The individuals who live at the camp have tarp-covered tents on the property as shelter. Most of the homeless resident’s work, according to Brigham. They do not earn enough money to afford permanent housing but at the same time earn too much to qualify for government assistance.
This dilemma around affording housing is all too common in New Jersey which is experiencing a homeless crisis. New Jersey is the sixth most expensive state in the country to rent a home according to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition. And twenty-three percent of Monmouth County residents are renters.
The contract between Dr. Roberts and Howell township states that Roberts has to help relocate the residents. It has been reported that instead Roberts offered each resident $1,000 but the nine individuals rejected this offer.
Deputy Mayor Robert Nicastro was reported saying the lot is zoned for commercial use only and “the town has no space to relocate them.”
Jeffrey Wild, an attorney, has offered to represent the camp pro bono. The president of the New Jersey Coalition to End Homelessness has offered to work with Wild in order to help relocate the nine residents.