By Lauren Wanko
This donated pile of wood is a lifesaver say residents of Tent City — a community of homeless and low income individuals in Lakewood Township. Some of the tents are outfitted with wood stoves.
“Last night trying to find something, soup and I didn’t have my gloves and in five minutes I couldn’t feel my hands no more. I had to run back inside because it was freezing, it was freezing,” said Tent City resident David Jones.
“Most of the people thought they could weather this and fair through it and it seems like most of the people made it. No one got frostbite. No one got hypothermia,” said Minister Steve Brigham.
Lakewood Township Deputy Mayor Albert Akerman says the township police officers visited Tent City throughout the night. The 15-acre community sits on Lakewood Township public property.
“They were in out and out all night to make sure if anyone wanted shelter, it’s available to them but unfortunately there’s some diehards out there that are not interested in taking help from the government,” Akerman said.
Three of about 80 Tent City residents went to an area church for shelter last night. We asked Brigham, founder of Tent City, why so many residents chose to stay put despite the chilling temperatures.
“To watch their belongings and again some do have wood stoves in their tents and they feel at home, this is their home, this is their community. They want to stay where they feel comfortable,” said Brigham.
Tent City’s chapel became the emergency shelter, equipped with cots, chairs and a wood stove. Four people slept here last night. Brigham says zero-rated sleeping bags help combat the dangerous temperatures. Donations are piled on tables — clothes, shoes, gloves.
“I am a landscaper. I have a workout in but I have a nice warm house. Unfortunately these people don’t,” said Tent City volunteer Ken Smith.
These donations are from individuals, civic and church groups.
“But nobody from the political realm came down with blankets or came down with wood or anything,” said Brigham.
“We offered them shelter. Our goal was to get everyone out, not to have them stay there with an extra blanket,” said Akerman.
There isn’t a county run-homeless shelter in Ocean County, but a county spokesperson says there’s a host of programs offered for the homeless.
Brigham says he’ll continue ensure Tent City residents have what they need to stay warm in the frigid cold. Meantime the deputy mayor says the police will continue to check on residents and offer shelter.