Lakewood Deputy Mayor Responds To Tent City March & Candlelight Vigil
Lakewood Deputy Mayor Steven Langert has no objections to the demonstration being held outside of the town's municipal complex Tuesday evening, what he doesn't want to happen is for the issue to become politicized.
"This is a human right's issue, not a political issue" states Langert.
The march and vigil is being held only weeks before Tent City goes to court against Lakewood and Ocean County over an agreement under which Tent City residents agree to vacate the public land. Tent City leader Reverend Steven Brigham asked that the township or county provide adequate housing that was more than just a temporary fix in a motel room, ideally a shelter/community project. Something which was impossible due to limitations from Federal funding.
Langert says that though the ideal situation presented by the members of Tent City was not presented, the town and county still provide many options.
"There are myriads of programs out there that government has that. Whether it be a county, state, or federal government program to help people get back on their feet."
All parties involved will have a court date in December, Langert says that he won't let any even affect the situation. "You know there are times that people try to draw us into politicizing it, we refuse to be drawn into that because we realize there is nothing to be gained and everything to be lost by making it a political issue.
He reminds homeless advocates however that Lakewood is one of the most proactive towns in Ocean County in terms of helping homeless individuals.
Langert says "Anyone who wants to have a roof over their head tonight, all they have to do is come out of the camp, come out of the woods, and we'll (Ocean County Board of Social Services, or Lakewood) make sure that they have a place to sleep tonight". He notes that the town and county has helped get dozens of Tent City residents out of the woods, into housing, and assisted the with finding work. He says the help is there, "it's incumbent upon people to take advantage of the programs that are out there to help them get back on their feet.
Representatives from Tent City say that the town and county doesn't have enough programs available, but Langert notes "there's never enough and they're always a need for more, but what we have is adequate. we've proven that, we've shown that. by going into the woods, taking people out finding them housing helping them look for a job."
He adds that while he understands homeless advocates position, "I know there are some people who would like to make it an "us against them" but there really isn't any us against them. This is an issue that affects society at large and as a society we need to deal with it."