Mayor OK With Tent City Protest, Says Lines Of Communication Are Open
Amidst a tumultuous situation in Lakewood’s Tent City, the Township and encampment continue working together getting homeless individuals permanent shelter.It’s been nearly half a year since a judge ruled the camp cannot expand, however its residents must be situated in some sort of housing. Lakewood mayor Al Akerman said there is still roughly eighty members of the encampment needing to be placed. He notes they’re handling it on a case-by-case basis, but trying to solve the easier cases first.
“In other words, if all they need is a ticket to Boston or something, then we can do that for them right away. There are some complicated cases where people might need a flight somewhere or more money for a place to go.”
He says rehousing will be imminent, and notes a good line of communication is kept between himself and the leaders of Tent City.
“I was talking to Steve Brigham Jr. and he said for all practical purposes it appears this is going to be the last year that there will be a tent city in Lakewood of this size.”
Headlines were recently made when the township passed an ordinance prohibiting the lighting of wooden stoves outdoors. Akerman claims it’s a fire safety and public health issue, however he received resistance from members of the encampment who felt they were being ‘frozen’ out.
He notes Brigham Jr. told him enforcing the ban would be deadly to many of the residents there, who rely on the wood stoves for heat. Akerman said he was willing to push enforcement back several weeks.
“We have to have a heart, we can’t just let people freeze to death. The neighbors were very frustrated and uptight, but by the end of the meeting they all agreed it’s fine as long as we’re working on a solution, and there are advocates working on a solution. It’s not like the issue is being ignored.”
He adds propane or electric heaters would be ok under the resolution.
Residents of Tent City have threatened to protest Monday over the ordinance, which Akerman says he has no issues with as long as it’s peaceful.