For many New Jersey residents, the holiday season is a time for getting together with family and friends, buying gifts and attending parties.

But some of us are focused on other kinds of activities, like surviving another night outside in the cold.

Minister Steve Brigham, who has been helping the homeless in Ocean County for more than two decades, said this time of year can be very difficult.

“I get a lot of calls from people because the ones that are living outside, living in their tents, they’re looking for some kind of warmth, either blankets, clothing, and also we provide a propane heater,” he said.

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He said while there is no full-time homeless shelter in Ocean County, there is a Code Blue shelter, but it’s only open when the temperature dips below 35 degrees.

“If we have a night that’s 36 degrees the Code Blue is not open, and then again with Code Blue you don’t stay there all day: They let you out at 8 o’clock in the morning and then you’ve got to come back at 5 o’clock," he said.

Ocean County officials closed an area for the homeless that became known as Tent City seven years ago, so now, according to Brigham “everyone is scattered about, there’s homeless in Lakewood, there’s people living in tents in the surrounding towns.”

He noted there are also a lot of people sleeping in their cars in parking lots overnight.

'This is the time of year to be generous and kind and thoughtful to our neighbors'

Why don’t they get permanent housing?

He said even if individuals are employed, “most people can understand the problem with the cost of housing as high as it is in our area right now.”

Brigham pointed out “there’s a lot of jobs that don’t pay enough for people to afford standard housing out there so they can work at a full-time job and still not have enough money to afford indoor housing.”

He noted as we celebrate Hanukah, Christmas and Kwanza, “this is the time of year to be generous and kind and thoughtful to our neighbors, and especially with the cold weather we’ve got to think of those that just can’t afford a place to stay.”

'We try to fill in the gap where the government is not stepping up at this point'

What’s the best way to help?

The minister said he’s set up a nonprofit group called Destiny’s Bridge to lend a helping hand, and there are six donation collection sites where you can drop off blankets and warm clothing.

“I go around during the week and I pick up from these drop-off locations and then bring them out to the homeless and poor,” he said.

He said efforts must continue to help those in need.

“There’s a lot of problems that they go through, we try to fill in the gap where the government is not stepping up at this point,” he said.

Drop-off locations

Ian MacKenzie Smith
10 Bucknell Dr., South Toms River
Weekdays: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday: 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
Please leave behind the van in the driveway.

Nancy Jean
72 Maxim Dr, Forked River
Please leave items in front of the garage.

Kimberly Morelli
1 Lorelei Dr., Howell
Please leave items on porch.

Middletown Reformed Church
121 Kings Highway, Middletown
Please leave items on the left side of the church in the walkway leading to the basement. If you have any questions call: 908-896-1682

Mark and Maggie
38 Buckley Road, Marlboro
Please leave items on covered porch

Holly
19 Hoover Drive,Brick
Please leave items under the carport

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.

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