Lakewood Mayor Ray Coles responds to your ‘Ask The Mayor’ questions: Homeless and Immigrant Housing

The following is an ‘Ask The Mayor’ question submitted to TLS, and the Mayor’s response. Email your questions for the Mayor to [email protected].


Hi Mr. Mayor,

Since there are so many malls now closing in NJ, why can’t we hire and train the new immigrant population (many who are now homeless on the streets) with construction experience and have them re-build these abandoned malls into affordable apartments & small grocery and necessity stores within the malls? This will provide the local economy with a boost in employment, provide spendable income, as well getting people off the street & reducing crime.

Thank you for taking the time to consider my inquiry.

Dawn T.

Response from Mayor Coles:

Good morning,

All the mall you mention are privately owned. I have read many stories about how many of these are being repurposed as a mixture of residential & commercial uses. Many municipalities are working with the property owners to arrange these changes.

Fortunately, we do not have any of these properties in Lakewood. The Ocean County Mall has been successfully reimagining itself with a variety of new commercial uses.

I am a big advocate of education & training to assist those who need a hand. Formal programs to work with the undocumented population will require action from both the federal and state government.

Thanks for writing



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  1. As someone who knows this issue the problem is many of these people suffer from mental illness &/or drug issues. Many different programs have been tried all over & obviously they don’t work as well as people assume they will.
    When the cold weather comes the homeless shelters fill up only to empty in spring. There’s a reason for this. Most of these people don’t want to be told when to be in or follow any rules (even in return for a bed, food, showers, medical care, etc).
    It’s a complicated issue (mostly brought on by emptying the mental institutions in the 70’s)
    Also, it is illegal to hire people ineligible to work in the US so obviously the Lakewood govt could not be involved in that, unless the Federal govt creates a program allowing undocumented immigrants to work.

  2. Good idea. But the truth is that there are Americans who are homeless and in need. Some of them had a house, car and decent jobs before they became homeless. We don’t need to import immigrants to work for us. We need to take care of our own beforehand. I have nothing against immigrants but we need to focus on our country’s people first. The influx of immigrants is only adding to the overgrowth of our population. Trump 2024

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