HOWELL – The homeless in Howell will be homeless once again following the June 20 auction that sold the land they reside on to the highest bidder.
Dr. Richard H. Roberts was the highest bidder at $1,603,000, according to township Manager Brian Geoghegan. The bid is currently pending acceptance which will be discussed at the next council meeting on July 17. Once accepted, the sale can be finalized, he said.
“As of this point there have been no details worked out for the Homeless Camp. The Township has been working with them and coordinating access with Monmouth County Social Services to ensure they are receiving any benefits that may be entitled to,” added Geoghegan.
According to Minister Steve Brigham of the Destiny’s Bridge homeless encampment, Dr. Richard H. Roberts also owns the land next door to the camp, which is located at 5998 Route 9 in Howell.
Geoghegan noted that the history of the township land that the encampment resides on stems back to March of 2017, when the governing body passed a resolution allowing the homeless camp to set up shop on the township property.
“That resolution also provided that the Township would provide 30 days’ notice to vacate,” he said.
Since that time, the homeless encampment has been residing on that plot of land. On April 17 of this year, the council put the property up for sale. The day following the resolution’s passing, the township notified the encampment in writing of the intent to sell. The township then held an auction on June 20 where prospective buyers could bid on the township property.
As of right now, the 12 homeless camp residents that had been living on the land for the last year will not have anywhere to go once they vacate, according to Brigham.
The potential buyer reportedly plans to give each of the 12 residents a $1,000 compensation each for moving off the land. However, Brigham noted that this amount will only last them a week or two in a hotel. He said what they need to focus on are “sustainable” solutions.
Since the bid was made, a Howell resident and long-time supporter of the camp Cheryl Copp-Eins, established a GoFundMe Me page on June 24 to raise $25,000 for the displaced residents. As of June 28, the site has raised $4,290 from 26 people.
“They have nowhere to go and no real money to start their journey with. I would like to see if there are some people who will donate money so they may each have a monetary start in relocating and surviving,” she stated in the GoFundMe bio. “The prospective buyer offered 1k [$1,000] which is 2 weeks in a hotel, and raising 25k [$25,000] could provide housing for a year for each 12, a used vehicle to get to work, most are in bikes, and a bit of a savings to make sure they can sustain their housing.”
Brigham expressed his gratitude, telling The Howell Times that Copp-Eins has always been very supportive of the camp, even taking them out to dinner.
While Brigham and the residents are grateful for all the help they have been given, he is realistic of what’s to come once the residents are officially off the land.
“Its [the $1,000 compensation] is a drop in the bucket as far as housing goes,” he said.
Despite most of the camp’s residents having jobs, they are simply not earning enough to exist in the current society and housing market, said Brigham, explaining that it takes about $21 per hour to be able to afford to live.
“It’s really not their fault,” he added.
Some residents will be going to Social Services to try and get assistance once they leave the land. However, what they really need is time. Brigham said he plans to attend the July 17 meeting to request of the council a little more time to figure out a living situation for the residents.