HOWELL – The Township recently entered into a legal agreement that will allow the homeless community residing on the property at 5998 Route 9 to remain there until March.
At the Feb. 19 Township Council meeting, officials approved a resolution for the execution of a settlement agreement between “Lisa Barretta, Minister Steven Brigham, Joseph Falkenburg, Cindy Lanouette, Carlos Luna, Robert Migliore, Gail Tonis, Dorit Attias, Olga Savka, Joanne Lippett, Anthony Lippett, Rasheeda Lippett, Howell Township, Destiny’s Bridge, and Route 9 Howell LLC.”
According to Minister Brigham, leader of the Destiny’s Bridge encampment, the small group still residing on the property has until March 18.
Prior to this agreement, the Destiny’s Bridge encampment supported a small homeless community on the township property for the last three years.
In July of 2018, the property was sold by the township to Dr. Richard Roberts for $1.6 million. Although township officials are still unaware of what will be built on the property by Roberts, the homeless community can no longer remain there.
“The purpose of the agreement is to allow them to remain on the property until March and then they’ve agreed to vacate at that point,” said Township Attorney Joseph Clark. “In exchange, Dr. Roberts will be providing compensation” to all of the remaining members.
The resolution was approved unanimously by the council.
Resident and regular attendee at township meetings, Barbara Dixel, questioned the township’s reasoning for selling the property in the first place and “making homeless people more homeless.”
Dixel called the sale “disgusting” and a “black eye” on the township. To this, numerous members of the council disagreed, some even taking offense to the criticism.
“We all live here because we choose to and we all choose to purchase things if we want them and can afford them, so why should I not or why should anybody not sell something that they can, if they no longer want it and somebody else does?” responded Mayor Theresa Berger.
Berger noted that most of the previous residents of the encampment have already left for other townships, leaving about four individuals on the property.
“We have offered much assistance…multiple times,” said Berger. “I do take a bit of offense (to the “black eye” comment).”
Russo backed Mayor Berger’s comments up, stating that he also took a bit of offense to the criticism.
“I know this mayor and the council worked with these people, and worked very well with them and did everything they possibly can do,” for the homeless community, said Russo.
While Minister Brigham understands why the community must vacate the property, he still wishes the encampment could have stayed.
“We had a beautiful community here where the residents were happy and productive. No tax dollars were involved, and it was a win-win for the homeless, and for the taxpayer,” said Brigham. “I wish the immense value of such a program could have been appreciated by more, but I am thankful to those that did see its worth and took part in its success.”