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Homeless Death Shines A Light On Growing Problem

The death of yet another homeless resident in the woods of Ocean County serves as a glaring reminder that something needs to be done and fast.

Dr. Robert Burchell
Dr. Robert Burchell (Center for Urban Policy Research)

It seems to happen almost every year, at least once. Some poor soul ends up dead due to a fire. That’s exactly what happened over the weekend. It was Saturday night and an unidentified man was apparently trying to keep warm when his tent went up in smoke. Authorities are continuing their investigation into what happened. There were no eyewitnesses to the incident but officials confirm it was an accident.

Ocean County officials continue to defend their programs and services for the homeless, claiming they spent $20 million dollars last year. The homeless and their advocates want the county to construct a permanent brick and mortar solution – a shelter. They feel the things the county does is a waste of time, money and resources and it’s just a band-aid on a problem that continues to get worse and worse with each passing year and with the economy only slowly recovering.

According to Dr. Robert Burchell, who heads the Center for Urban Policy Research at Rutgers University, the two sides can’t continue to go on with this impasse forever. He says something’s gotta give and fast. Burchell says both the homeless and advocates need to cooperate with officials and warns if this continues as is, the body count will most likely increase.

Dr. Burchell says “it’s a shame it’s come down to this. I understand Ocean County has said no to the homeless shelter but it may be time to finally look into it once and for all. It’s an issue that keeps getting to be dangerous and if the County does take a stand on this, they can have that feather in their cap.”

At this point, there has been no court date set for both sides to return to the table. The winter has been relatively mild but there are still hundreds out in the woods trying to keep warm.


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