Lakewood Township Files Suit To Protect Its Environment And Begin The Process Of Making Certain The Homeless Are Cared For Properly

tent_city_stormyThe Township of Lakewood filed a complaint today in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Ocean County, to regain possession of land parcels in the township that are being illegally occupied as homeless encampments and tent cities without the consent of the Township. Between 30 to 40 people occupy two of the sites, located at Cedar Bridge Avenue and Clover Street, and Route 88 and the railroad tracks. Lakewood is represented by the Township attorneys at Bathgate, Wegener & Wolf. The Cedar Bridge site is environmentally sensitive because it is located near the Metedeconk River and contains areas of freshwater wetlands. The “tent city” encampment threatens the integrity of the property. There are more than 40 structures, tents, propane grills and stoves, an untested water source and well, a drum containing oil, debris, goats, chickens, garbage and used toilet paper strewn throughout the site, among other unsanitary conditions.

Also, in the encampment are unapproved framed structures in various stages of construction along with piles of wood, a food tent, and toilets that appear to be outhouses.

Lakewood Mayor Steven Langert said, “We are doing this for the protection of not only Lakewood residents, the community at large and the property, but for the very people who occupy these premises because it’s unsafe, unsanitary, and unregulated.  Jim Wilcox, one of the homeless men, died from a propane explosion and fire at one of the sites.  We want to avoid tragedies like this in the future.
“Because of the situation, Lakewood is unable to protect the health, safety, and welfare of its residents. We have unapproved building structures; we have unsanitary facilities; and a well built for water that has not been tested.  This is not only bad for Lakewood and for all the residents; it’s bad for the inhabitants.”

Lakewood Township officials have made great efforts to help the homeless. Township
officials hired the nonprofit organization STEPS (Solutions to End Poverty Soon) to help place
homeless individuals in facilities.  STEPS has, in fact, placed about 35 people in a little over a year. 
The Ocean County Board of Human Services has also been very active in trying to resolve this problem. They have assembled a Task Force of local and county agencies, both public and private, to find alternate housing, to fund that housing, and to provide other social services to the homeless. They went directly to the sites to offer the inhabitants assistance in finding alternative housing, such as apartments, hotels, and other sheltered living quarters. They have offered counseling, food stamps, drug counseling, among other help.

In spite of these efforts, the homeless residents of the properties have shown no interest in leaving the sites, or working with STEPS  and the Ocean County Board of Human Services. They have declined to take advantage of alternative housing arrangements or other social services made available to them.
Mayor Langert says, “They are refusing the help we want to give them. Unfortunately, we now have to resort to legal means to compel them to accept our help and to protect this environmentally sensitive area.

“We are not throwing the homeless out on the street.  We are trying to do this to benefit and protect them and the town. We have been working with the County, and now is the time to do this so that we can bring all the stakeholders to the table to resolve this issue.”

Mayor Langert said, “Lakewood has begun the steps to protect and provide a safe environment for the homeless.  It’s unfortunate that it had to be done through litigation but this needs to be done in order ensure that protections are afforded to everybody.”

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  1. So if this property is “environmentally sensitive” then we shouldn’t see any homes, business’s or schools go up there in the days, month’s or years after the homeless are removed? I do think the homeless folks living there should be given proper housing and assistance but if the towns going to argue the property is “environmentally sensitive” then I don’t want to see any structures going up in these two locations in the future; though I’m sure I will.

  2. just how much is this “litigation” going to cost us taxpayers?

    what does that mean- “they refuse to leave”? who’s in charge here? it sounds like an adult child that refuses to leave the good life at home when his parents ask him to leave finally to go out on his own.

    why can’t they get jobs? let them stand in the muster zone and get hired!

  3. Look people, the place is really unsafe, these people are a lawsuit waiting to happen. They unfortunatly are not well. They have been offered help and simply refuse. To put it bluntly it stinks down there. They are polluting themselves and unfortunately its time for them to go . Of course the ACLU will love this one, and use it to flame the fires of hated, but the fact is the place is not safe and way you slice it .

  4. about an hr ago i was on my home when one of those homeless shot out in front of me on a bike from the woods i nearly crashed avoiding him with my child in the car something has to be done

  5. To #1 you really don’t get the zoning rules its in a county wet land I believe and even if somebody can get the variance they will need to do countless steps to make sure that no fish might die and ps maybe they will require real sewer not to pollute the waters

  6. To mark: num one made a very good point and your response just proved what he or she was talking about. Since its not safe for them where they are why don’t we see if they can move to pine street or maybe vine street seems to be plenty of space there. This town is ridiculous! Let’s start worrying about the structures that are illegal or better yet let’s start taking notice to the fact that while the USA is in a recession lakewood is still building houses like nothing. Let’s take notice and start worrying about the fact that in lakewood we live divided by religion.

  7. they’re just mad because they have to wait for the homeless to leave (not likely) so they can knock down the woods and build more louses that this town DOES NOT NEED!!!!!!!!!

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