Monday, October 14, 2013

Tent City and Lakewood still at odds

The Asbury Park Press reported today that the Ocean County prosecutor's office has subpoenaed Jack Ballo's film, Destiny's Bridge, as evidence in its case against the founder of a tent encampment for the homeless in Lakewood.

The Rev. Steven Brigham is accused of criminal mischief and witness tampering in connection with the destruction of a tent and removal of one of the camp's residents earlier this year. The film covers the incident through interviews after the fact, but does not show the tents being dismantled.

The subpoena is a reminder that, despite an agreement reached earlier this year to close the camp and find housing for the homeless, animosity continues to run high.

Lakewood and Brigham are supposed to be working to find housing for Tent City residents, as part of an agreement between the township and the homeless that calls for the camp to be closed early in 2014. A number of camp residents have been placed in housing, but there remain dozens still in the camp, with new residents still coming in, which would seem to violate the terms of the consent agreement. At the same time, based on conversations that I've had with Brigham and some of the current residents, the township has not been particularly cooperative in working with residents.

The issues remain the same: There is not enough housing in the Ocean County area to accommodate its own economically destitute, let alone the growing population of poor and homeless New Jerseyans damaged by corporate capitalism's destructive capacity. The camp is a magnet, to some degree, because it offers a home -- however flawed a home it may be -- to those who have been forced into the cracks and ignored. Lakewood is a poor community itself, incapable of supporting the influx and Ocean County has turned a deaf ear while the state has left it to the counties to manage the problem.

Caught in the middle of all this, unfortunately, are the homeless now living in the woods of Cedarbridge.