‘My hope is that it sparks a conversation’: Councilman sleeps outside to bring awareness about lack of homeless shelter
A councilman in Toms River hopes to raise awareness about Ocean County's lack of a permanent shelter by sleeping outside, as the temperatures fall to dangerous levels and people are still sleeping outside, on the streets, and in the woods with nowhere to go.
Terrance Turnbach, a councilman in Toms River, will spend the night Saturday, beginning at 4:30 pm. on the steps of Toms River Town Hall. He's invited the commissioners and anyone else who wants to join him.
“My hope is that it sparks a conversation,” says Turnbach. “We are not going to get a housing center built from one night outside, but we can bring awareness to the commissioners. This is important to the county, to the people, volunteers like this, let's have a meeting let's start the process."
Every Friday, 45 in a row since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, volunteers come to Presbyterian Church of Toms River to help give out food to hundreds of families in need.
Turnbach and the others hand out boxes of food provided by the Fulfill food bank to people struggling through the pandemic, and in the surrounding woods live the homeless, included are veterans and seniors, with no shelters or heat. Turnbach says it's unacceptable.
“There's 21 counties in the state of New Jersey, 20 of 21 counties have transitional housing, Ocean County is the only county that does not have transition housing,” says Turnbach. “We are trying to raise that awareness, trying to convince our county commissioners to invest in a transition housing center.”
During code blue cold emergencies, Turnbach and others pick up the homeless and bring them inside for the night to temporary motels, and by 8 a.m. the next day, they are dropped back off on the streets or in the woods. Turnbach says he hopes enough people take notice of his night outside and act.
“I want them to reach out to the county commissioners and tell them we shouldn't be the last county to not have a transitional housing center,” says Turnbach. “I want to encourage them to help everybody, elected offices about service to the people. It's about service to the people that need you. You have to be a voice to the voiceless.”
News 12 has reached out to the office of the Ocean County Commissioners for reaction.