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Homeless Rally Sunday in Lakewood

Advocates seeking…and offering…solutions for homelessness in Ocean County state their case Sunday in Lakewood’s Town Square.

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The Rally of Hope brings together Evangelical Christian, Jewish, Catholic and Muslin community leaders to present the situation as a social justice issue.

Homelessness advocates will also recognize support efforts of the past year and invite all interested attendees to become involved in the struggle to resolve longstanding issues of marginalization.

Roughly 70 people occupy in Lakewood’s Tent City and nearby wooded enclaves, but it’s a fluid number as people drift in and out. Homelessness exists in varying degrees throughout Ocean County and New Jersey’s 20 other counties.

Lakewood was thrust into the foreground when squatters were given a deadline to leave land owned by the township and by the county. An Ocean County Superior Court judge granted time for township officials and homelessness advocates to reach terms acceptable to both. The issue is still in litigation.

Ocean County officials contend that dozens of Social Service programs using federal, state and county funds, and their subsidies to faith-based shelters, provide a strong support base. However, neither guarantee indefinite support.

Some advocates contend that a county-run homeless shelter is needed. But county officials counter that no such entity exists in the state, and to create one would violate the terms under which federal funding for the existing programs is granted.

They are resistant to adopting the Homelessness Trust Fund, currently operating in a dozen New Jersey counties, which appends a $3.00 surcharge to transactions channeled through County Clerk offices. Ocean County officials maintain that it’s simply another form of taxation, and they have pledged to add no new taxes to the structure in place.

Homeless people have told WOBM News repeatedly that the problem extends well beyond a roof over one’s head. They say they need to regain the self-respect and self-confidence needed to re-enter the mainstream;  and  that their past and present situations prevent any serious consideration for gainful employment that would offer a first step toward it.

The League of Women Voters will conduct voter registration throughout the event.

It begins at 12:30 with meals, free haircuts and blood pressure screenings, and distribution of food and toiletries. Speeches and discussions follow until 4 PM.

Sponsors include the Kiwanis Club of Jackson, Northern Ocean Habitat for Humanity, the New Jersey Coalition to End Homelessness, the Luminer Foundation, the Monmouth and Forked River Presbyterys, and Homelessness Ended through Local Partners.

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