Lakewood – Township officials say they are frustrated by a slow court process stopping them from removing homeless people encamped on the township’s property off Cedar Bridge Avenue. They say they are concerned for the homeless people, but also for neighborhood residents who say their children have breathing problems because of smoke from the camp’s 80 wood-burning stoves.
A legal battle started by the town is coming to a head. The camp’s leader, Steve Brigham and the Ocean County homeless, represented by attorney Jeffrey Wild of Lowenstein and Sandler in Roseland, are suing Lakewood and the Ocean County Freeholders.
A court hearing is set for Feb. 22 before Superior Court Judge Joseph Foster.
Michael DiCicco, a township attorney, says Brigham intentionally expanded the camp, violating Foster’s ruling to the contrary. Foster would not allow the township to evict the 50 to 60 homeless people from the property without an alternative living plan.
Authorities contends the camp’s population has since doubled. Brigham said the camp is home to 80 this winter. Township officials claim there are 125.
Wild counter-sued the township and Ocean County on behalf of the homeless, claiming they have a constitutional right to housing. Foster ordered the case to mediation.
Alice Kelsey of Lakewood spoke at the township meeting Wednesday and said the township is irresponsible because it provides no affordable rentals for very low-income residents, while catering to the low- to moderate-income residents in its affordable housing projects.
Brigham distributes material from supporters and buys supplies, he said.
Homeless advocate Eileen Presing, a nurse, from the Whiting section of Manchester, visits the camp weekly to treat common ailments with over-the-counter medications. She does wound care and offers sore throat, toothache and bug bite remedies. But depression, mental illness and addiction abound among the population there, she said. There is no medicine for that, she said.
Read more at Asbury Park Press.