Lakewood’s Tent City Neighbors to Hold Meeting on Affects of Homeless Encampment
LAKEWOOD–Homeowners and residents in the neighbor communities around “Tent City” in the township have called for a meeting at 8PM, at 177 Arlington on Tuesday. Residents have invited several township officials to attend and are calling for a resolution that they say has negatively affected their quality of life for several years.
Below is the letter sent to the township committee and The Lakewood Scoop news service:
To the members of the Township Committee of Lakewood Township, NJ:
Tent City is the name given to a property located on Block 961.02, Lots 3 and 4 in Lakewood Township, along Cedar Bridge Avenue and Clover Street. It began in 2005 when some homeless local residents created makeshift shelters within this wooded area. By the end of 2010, more than 30 people were sheltering there. Currently, Tent City is an encampment with almost 100 people, and has a leader, Minister Steve Brigham, who has presided since 2008.
This means that without the consent of Lakewood Township, there are people inhabiting properties to which they are not entitled. They use water that has never been tested and approved for use; they build fires for heat and fuel; they trespass onto the adjacent private properties; and in general, they disturb the residents of properties in this area.
In 2010, Lakewood Township brought a suit against this group, contending that the occupiers are trespassers upon property they are not entitled to. The occupiers responded that they have the right to live on the property since Lakewood Township and Ocean County have failed to provide them with adequate emergency shelter or permanent housing.
Result of the lawsuit:
A- Lakewood Township agreed to eliminate the need for the homeless camp by:
1- Identifying a temporary location within Ocean County where homeless individuals will be provided with safe and adequate emergency shelter.
2- Work together with Ocean County to establish the first adequate permanent shelter in the county.
3- Secure permanent housing for these and other homeless individuals in Ocean County.
B- Tent City agreed to contain the homeless camp by:
1- They would not bring new homeless individuals to the premises.
2- They would not advertise the camp.
3- They would not build any additional structures or complete any structures that were under construction at the time.
4- They were not permitted to improve the facilities at the premises for expansion purposes, such as any power generating facilities, waste disposal facilities or water delivery systems.
Since the above agreement:
Lakewood Township has not established a temporary or permanent shelter
Tent City has grown more than triple in size, and has violated all 4 of their agreements:
A- The populace has grown, with an influx of residents from areas outside Ocean
County, such as Monmouth County, Atlantic City, New York, and other locations.
B- The camp is advertised online
C- Framed structures have been and are being erected, with durable materials such
D- There has been more expansion to improve the premises, including the clearing of
trees for roads wide enough for vehicles to pass through.
Problems for the residents of Lakewood Township:
1-The occupants of the camp are mostly people who suffer from drug addiction, alcohol addiction and mental illness. (taken from Youtube video- Asbury park press). This presents a situation of possible lawlessness, creating fear among nearby residents. Vagrants have trespassed onto private properties in the vicinity. Women and children are afraid to leave their homes and walk their very own streets. Neighbors are looking to sell their homes which is only bringing down the value of the neighborhood.
2- Two very serious problems arise regarding the issue of fires.
a) The occupants warm themselves via campfires or wood-burning stoves which release toxic air pollutants. Wood smoke includes fine particles, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, dioxins and furans. The most dangerous component of wood smoke pollution is the very small particles that make up smoke and soot. These particles are too small to be filtered by the nose and upper respiratory system, so they wind up deep in the lungs. They can remain there for months, causing structural damage and chemical changes, and can decrease lung function. These particles are so small they are easily inhaled deep into the lungs, collecting in the tiny air sacs. This sometimes causes permanent lung damage. Smoldering fires are the worst polluters because they burn at a temperature too low for efficient combustion. One group of toxic air pollutants known as polycyclic organic matter includes benzo(a)pyrene, which may cause cancer. The risks are greater for infants, children, pregnant women and the elderly.
The neighbors of Tent City have been suffering from this harmful and potentially carcinogenic smoke for over two years. And as the encampment keeps growing, the fires have grown both larger and more profuse, until it has become unbearable to live in the vicinity. Also, on cold nights, when the smoke is unable to rise and disperse, and the temperature limits the air movement, the particles seep into the houses through closed doors and windows. Breathing air containing such smoke can cause a number of serious respiratory and cardiovascular health problems. Many young children and adults in the area have developed allergies and asthma from this smoke.
b) The occupants burn garbage and other materials as well, which can be toxic and extremely harmful. Our air is becoming more and more polluted and the issues have become impossible to ignore.
c) The fires also put everyone in danger, both the campers and the nearby residents, as they are not monitored and can easily spread to the areas around. There has already been one death from these fires and one person was severely burned.
The residents of Lakewood Township request that a resolution to this problem be implemented immediately. There is no acceptable reason our taxpaying public should be subjected to this disastrous situation which is unfortunately growing every day, and will be harder to check if ignored any longer.
All neighborhing residents.