By Christie Duffy
Toms River police say they will likely have to disband this camp of about 10 homeless residents. Police are investigating claims that the camp is on private property.
“I have proof that they cannot throw us out of here. This is not their land. It’s a map. We are zoned. This is open space for recreation,” said tent community resident Pat Maloney.
The police plan to bring in social services to try to help the homeless find housing. They recently arrested one man who was living here, after finding outstanding warrants for his arrest.
The camp is down a wooded path, about 100 yards from the Garden State Parkway, a ShopRite and a private apartment complex.
Residents we spoke to at Emerald Apartments say they want the camp to go.
“I don’t like it. I have a daughter. She’s scared to come outside. We woke up one morning, the guy was sitting on our porch. We don’t know who he is, we just know he’s homeless from tent city back here,” said Michelle Scott.
We’re told Emerald Apartments recently posted no trespassing signs to ward off the homeless.
“There’s really, there’s no problems. We don’t do drugs,” said Chuck Carroll, who lives in the tent community.
“I’m looking to get permanent housing somewhere,” Maloney said.
Neither of these men want to live in the woods. Carroll fell on hard times after Superstorm Sandy, about a year and a half ago. Maloney has been struggling with homelessness for more than 12 years.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing Urban Development, there are an estimated 678 homeless people in Ocean County. The homeless population has ballooned in recent years, climbing more than 50 percent since 2009.
Ocean County does not have a homeless shelter. Oftentimes, the homeless here will be sent to the Atlantic City Rescue Mission, if there is room.
At one camp in Lakewood, a fire claimed the life of one man Saturday morning. It was the second fire at the camp in less than a week. Police are investigating the cause of the blaze but reports say they don’t suspect foul play.
This camp is in the process of being shut down.
“This county does not have enough resources for people. It’s such shame that there is no shelter system here. This is a problem across New Jersey. It’s not limited to Ocean County but it’s certainly worse here. There aren’t as many places, as I know of anyway, where you have people living in tents in the woods,” said Nate Kleinman, advocate for the homeless in the Occupy Sandy movement.
According to the Ocean County Board of Social Services, a non-profit organization, they do offer 60 support programs to the residents of Ocean County, including emergency housing.