Homelessness Remains a Persistent Problem For the Shore Area
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As one year of free rent comes to a conclusion, Lakewood's former Tent City residents face the prospect of homelessness again. On WOBM-AM's Townsquare Tonight, homeless advocate Minister Steve Brigham, who list his own address as a vehicle in the parking lot of a big box store, explains why these people can't seem to get it together.
Brigham, one of the leaders of the Tent City Movement, explained that it's a lot harder to exist today than it was a few decades ago. He adds that addiction, mental illness and a lack of marketable job skills also play a role.
"So, we've got these things that are working against the homeless and the poor and so we've gotta do what we can to figure out a better solution," said Brigham.
According to Brigham, small tent communities have already started going up in wooded areas in towns that border Lakewood. He said he's doing what he can to help supply these people with the basic necessities they need to survive in the woods.
"If they fall through the cracks for whatever reason, I believe if I have the resources, if I have the ability and the energy, I'm gonna try to meet that need, their basic necessities, shelter over their head with a tent, some sleeping bags, a little propane heater, some way to cook some food and supply them with a little bit of food, just so they can again, exist in our community," said Brigham.
However, there are other grassroots efforts that help the homeless in the shore area. Absecon-based, Haven/Beat the Street Incorporated, serves the homeless in Monmouth, Ocean and Atlantic Counties by working within the system, according to Outreach Director Paul Hulse.
"We do hotel stays, case-by-case management, basically we find out what the need is and work for the person from start to finish," said Hulse.
Unlike the often contentious relationship Mr. Brigham and other homeless advocates have faced with local and county officials, Hulse said he has a good relationship with his government and social service partners.
"We tend to you know, try to work within the means with each organization and everyone has different barriers but we have developed a great relationship with the governing bodies and they seem to be somewhat cooperative," said Hulse.
However, Hulse admits that not every case gets to the satisfactory mark of housing.
Homeless advocates working with the Tent City Movement have also been lobbying government officials, at all levels, to support using micro houses for the homeless. In fact, Brigham said they're trying to bring it to the attention of new 3rd District Congressman Tom MacArthur.
However, Brigham believes they face an uphill battle in getting these tiny houses accepted as a solution. He believes the fact that some businesses are benefiting financially from housing the homeless is mostly to blame.