Most of the homeless in Ocean County, New Jersey are in Toms River, see what’s being done to help all OC residents
On Episode 4 of 'Eyes On The Jersey Shore', I spoke with Toms River Councilman Terrance Turnbach and Paul Hulse, the President of 'Just Believe Inc.', on how we can better serve and help our homeless residents.
The conversation has only just begun, the work to help and serve the poor and homeless is a continual mission in Ocean County, the Jersey Shore and beyond.
According to the Monarch Housing Associates study, there was about 344 people a night, on average in 2020, experiencing homelessness in Ocean County, with most on the list coming out of Toms River.
Toms River Councilman Terrance Turnbach and Paul Hulse, the President of 'Just Believe Inc.', have been serving the poor and pushing for a year round transitional housing shelter for the homeless to be established in Ocean County.
They are now taking their experiences and their skills and leadership roles to help provide food and shelter year round for the homeless in our community.
"The push that Paul and I are trying to make here is to establish a transitional housing center here in Ocean County," Turnbach told Townsquare Media Jersey Shore News on Tuesday. "We have to do better, and that's at a county level, and I believe we've started that process so I'm not condemning them (the Commissioners) as much as I'm saying we've got to move forward with the transitional housing center year round with the proper services. You have to have the public educated too, it's not a shelter where people just go to be and be forever, that's not part of the plan."
The idea with a transitional house center, Turnbach explains, is to be able to help residents have a place to stay and help them get back on their feet again in society.
Turnbach and Hulse has begun conversations with the Ocean County Commissioners to discuss what's currently available for the homeless and what areas they are looking to address moving forward.
On Wednesday, Ocean County Commissioner Director, Gary Quinn, told Townsquare Media News that when they met last week, they had "a very productive meeting."
"We, as a Board of Commissioners, certainly recognize the fact that there is an issue in our county as well as all the other counties across the state, when it comes to the need for some sort of transitional housing and for the most part we agreed on just about everything we talked about," Quinn said. "The only real issue would be the fact that there's constantly comments being made out there that Ocean County is the only county that does not have a transitional housing facility which is really not the case because there's traditional housing facilities in counties throughout the state but these facilities are not run by the counties or owned by the counties. The only two that are actually owned by the counties are the ones in Atlantic City and up in the city of Newark."
Quinn adds that all the other facilities are run by non-profits, churches and people who have taken on that responsibility to help those in need.
With that being the case, Quinn says they want to continue working with Turnbach, Hulse and their group in doing what they can to address the homelessness issue in Ocean County.
"We want to address the problem, get involved with their group and address it as partners along with other non-profits throughout the entire county," Quinn said. "The only issue the Board of Commissioners has is the county cannot build something and own it as a county facility because we're under much different guidelines when it comes to facilities whether it be with regards to hiring people and civil service requirements, the process of construction, so there's a lot stricter guidelines that we deal with and we can certainly come out a lot more efficient and dollar wise by working with partners and non-profit groups."
The ball is rolling and they're hoping to try and get some transitional housing up and running within the next year or two in Ocean County.
In the meantime, the county has been providing services to help the homeless at different points of the year.
"Last year through our Social Services Department, we put up $20-million for different programs and just on a nightly basis, 365 days of the year, we probably put 900 plus people into some sort of shelter, whether it be to rental assistance, whether it be through hotel placements...because this is an ongoing problem that needs to be addressed," Quinn said. "Certainly, a transitional housing facility would make a lot of sense."
Quinn said that he and Commissioner Ginny Haines plans to meet again with Councilman Turnbach, Hulse and their group in a couple weeks with a goal of putting together a plan including finding a possible location to build a transitional housing center.
"We're going to try and come up with a site that would be acceptable not only to us, to them (Turnbach, Hulse and group) but the neighborhood where the facility would be located and the township it would be located in, everybody would have to buy into it (the idea of putting a transitional housing center in a certain area)," Quinn said.
They will continue to meet and iron out all the details from finding funding for the project to a location and forming partnerships to carry out the mission and more.
Commissioner Quinn said the ultimate goal is to help people find permanent housing as well.
"Transitional housing is great, but at the end of the day transitional housing is only temporary," Quinn said. "What we really have to do is try and find permanent housing for these folks and get them back on their feet. Through the county, we provide rental assistance, funding if they need deposit money to put up a security deposit, we have a world of programs that are available to people. They just have to reach out to us and we can put them in touch with the right stuff."