“Occupy Lakewood”: Hundreds Gather for Homeless


homelessLakewood, NJ – About 200 people gathered in town square after they walked with lanterns for a mile along Cedar Bridge Avenue from Tent City Tuesday evening to raise awareness of the plight of the homeless and call on officials to provide them shelters in Ocean County.

“Eleven years ago a man asked me to help him because he could not pay for his room in a boarding house,” Steve Brigham, founder of the Tent City homeless encampment, told the crowd.

While Brigham could not pay the man’s rent, he offered him a tent and a lantern and some food, which the man gratefully accepted. Today, there are many such unfortunates and they have come to live in Tent City where they can find a form of shelter and community – more than what they can get from Ocean County, Brigham said.

There are people living in the woods in many towns in Ocean County, not just Lakewood, Brigham said.

Brigham called on the politicians in Ocean County and Lakewood Committeeman Steven Langert in particular to have compassion for the people who are living in Tent City. Several times Langert has said publicly that all the homeless have to do is come out of the woods and Lakewood would find them a home.

“We are out of the woods, we are here in town square, please, please help us,” Brigham said.

Rabbi Steve Gold of Beth Am Shalom spoke to the audience and likened Tent City to an original Occupy Wall Street.

“Long before there was Occupy Wall Street there was …” Gold said, raising a hand to the crowd, indicating it should respond. “Tent City,” was the reply.

Tent City is the result of a society that bailed out big banks while politicians focused on getting re-elected, Gold said.

“People without homes can not wait any longer,” Gold said.

Dorene Randall, 40, of Point Pleasant walked the mile to town square with her 5-year-old daughter, Jaycee.

“My daughter and I had no place to live,” Randall said. Now she has an apartment but lives in fear again because she may be laid off from her current job.

Charles Errickson, 55, is one of about 70 residents living in Tent City. He lives there because a large portion of the monthly check he receives is paid to his child support arrears and it leaves him with $420 a month. Errickson, an Army veteran said he prefers Tent City to the Atlantic City shelter because he feels safer here. He is not the only veteran living there, he said.Many of the homeless are people were living one paycheck at a time and an expensive car repair or expense landed them with an eviction or foreclosure, said Tracey Boyer, a professor of social work at Richard Stockton College who attended the walk with some of her students.

Rumu DasGupta, a professor of social work at Georgian Court University here, said the faces of the homeless has changed. She visits Tent City regularly with students and has come to know many of the residents there.

“These are people who were legitimate members of the community and fell on bad times,” DasGupta said.

Jeffrey J. Wild, a Roseland lawyer, also spoke at the event and called on officials to step up and provide homeless people a place to live because, he contended, it is a constitutional right.

Ocean County does a particularly bad job of helping the homeless, Wild said. In a 32-month period, the county Board of Social Services turned down 3,774 applications for assistance, he said.

Lakewood filed a lawsuit last year to evict Tent City residents from township-owned land in the woods off Cedar Bridge Avenue. In response, Wild filed a lawsuit against the township as well as the Ocean County Board of Freeholders for denying people what he maintains is their right to shelter.

Lakewood agreed to allow the tent dwellers to stay but insisted they remove the self-constructed wooden huts while appropriate shelter was found.

Wild argues the county has failed to spend an annual $20 million budgeted to care for the homeless in either an efficient nor humane manner.

In response to the suit, the freeholder board and the Ocean County Board of Social Services has argued that government has no constitutional nor other legal obligation to provide such a shelter.

Last month, the Atlantic City Rescue Mission joined Tent City in the lawsuit against Ocean County.

The shelter, which is operated by a nonprofit Christian social service ministry, wants the freeholder board to reimburse its organization for about $2 million in costs since 2005 associated with providing emergency shelter for homeless people who previously resided in Ocean County.

Laura Quinones, 55, lives in her truck and was at the rally.

“I used to be ashamed that I lived in my truck,” Quinones said. “Not anymore. There are a lot of people like me. I would love a place to go that is warm.”

{Asbury Park Press/Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. In a community with such a large population of Torah Jews, shouldn’t we take a stand on this issue? Why the silence, when human beings live in substandard conditions? Granted, these are not fellow Jews, but aren’t we supposed to care nonetheless?