Lakewood’s Tent City Residents Refuse to Leave [AUDIO]
Holdouts at the Tent City homeless camp in Lakewood plan to stay until they're forced out by the municipality according to one official.
Fifteen holdouts at the Tent City homeless camp are not eligible for temporary housing because those individuals were not included in the U.S. census last year said Tent City Coordinator Steven Bringham.
"They've got no place to go in Ocean County," Brigham said. "They're extremely nervous and upset because they don't know what the future holds for them. This is the only place they know to call home."
Brigham added that it's a disturbing situation that needs to be solved because people who can't afford housing will not have a roof over their head.
Lakewood officials have been warning Tent City residents for a year that the camp would be dismantled. Deputy Mayor Albert Akerman said Lakewood can't afford to perform the federal government's job. "The cost would be about $15 million to $20 million to have that amount of people. I mean that's off the top of my head."
Akerman said Lakewood is paying more than one million dollars to relocate the homeless who agreed to be counted in the census, as per court order. "People are very, very upset because their taxes are going up this year and they felt like year after year we were spending a lot on Tent City and they felt like it's one place to cut."
Although various nonprofit groups have offered help in relocating the holdouts, Brigham said providing transportation to a shelter in Atlantic County isn't the type of help they need, and that Tent City appears to be their best option. "Food, clothing, shelter. I'm sure they've looked around. They've assessed the situation. They see what Atlantic City Mission looks like and what it runs like. You have to leave during the day and wander the streets and you're just another number. There's no community."
Brigham said a lot of Tent City residents don't have the resources, skills or support system to get a job that's going to allow them to afford housing in Ocean County.
Once Tent City is completely dismantled, Akerman said Lakewood plans on replanting about 15,000 trees with a grant from the state.