Residents, supporters fight against Lakewood tent city closure as encampment is torn down
LAKEWOOD - Residents of Lakewood's tent city and supporters of the homeless campsite are fighting back against the town's efforts to clear out the site and relocate those still living there.
Advocates for the poor and homeless chanted and held up signs outside the camp on Cedar Bridge Road Monday, saying Ocean County needs a shelter for its homeless and services to get them back on their feet.
The township is tearing down tents and shanties where as many as 125 homeless people have lived for the past seven years.
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The township of Lakewood ordered the campsite closed as of June 1, saying it's a health and safety hazard. Under a court order, Lakewood must pay one year of rent or other relocation costs to residents who lived there for at least a year.
But some say poor oversight by the township led to the money being squandered.
"You got money to go out, try to get a place and start over, but they didn't do it," says tent city resident Joe Falkenburg. "They took it and spent it in a stupid manner."
Lakewood Deputy Mayor Albert Akerman says the township agreed in a court settlement to not police how the homeless people spent what they received.
"People who got apartments we pay their rent directly, and the people who got payouts we don't really follow up on them," Akerman says. "We gave them the money based on their situation."
The township, which owns the land where the tent city is located, expects to remove all of the tents by the end of the month.