HOWELL – As of March 18, those residing on the homeless encampment at 5998 Route 9 in the township were required to permanently vacate. While the futures of these individuals might remain uncertain, they will now have some financial assistance to start them on their way.
The New Jersey Coalition to End Homelessness has been working to secure sufficient funds for each member of the Destiny’s Bridge homeless community that can be used to relocate and find other temporary housing.
Kate Leahy of the NJ Coalition told Jersey Shore Online that each member will receive $4,000. This number was negotiated and calculated to be sufficient enough funds for half a year’s rent in a “decent apartment or other indoor living situation,” she said.
While Leahy noted that half a year’s rent is consistent with other similar cases, the issue with a lack of affordable housing still persists.
“Until more decent, affordable housing is created for those working very low-paying jobs, as many from this group are, huge numbers of people in the area – not just these former Howell camp residents – will have to struggle to keep a roof over their heads and seek emergency public assistance if they qualify,” Leahy said.
The members of Howell’s homeless encampment resided on this parcel of land, provided by the township council, for about three years.
In July of 2018, the property was sold by the township at auction to Dr. Richard Roberts for $1.6 million. Although township officials are still unaware of what will be built on the property by Roberts, they stated that the homeless can no longer remain there.
The Feb. 19 Township Council meeting approved a settlement agreement between the residents, Destiny’s Bridge, Howell Township, and Route 9 Howell LLC, that allowed the group to remain on the property until March 18.
The NJ Coalition helped to make this possible.
“Last July, Howell announced that it was going to eject the people in the community immediately, with no place to go, as part of a sale of the land to a Lakewood businessman, Dr. Richard Roberts. However, the Coalition intervened – and stopped the ejection, until the homeless people could be relocated in a just and humane way,” stated a release from the NJ Coalition.
The Coalition helped extend the community’s stay on the property while also helping to negotiate a price for compensation from Dr. Roberts. This way the homeless wouldn’t just be put out, they would have time to prepare a means to move on.
“Robert’s company that bought the land is required to pay all 12 of the current and past members of the community compensation, including sums sufficient to enable each of the current residents to rent an apartment for at least half a year – so they can get their lives back on track, including continuing with the low-pay jobs many of them have,” stated the release.
Jeff Wild, President of the Coalition and an attorney at Lowenstein Sandler LLP, emphasized the significance of the right to affordable housing for everyone.
“We will continue to be the voice of New Jersey’s tens of thousands of people who are homeless each night,” said Wild.
Despite the struggles that Howell’s homeless community has endured, Destiny Bridge’s Founder Minister Steven Brigham has consistently expressed his gratitude to the township as well as anyone who has helped them along the way. “Anyone could end up homeless at some point in their life. Thankfully, there are non-profits like the Coalition and Destiny’s Bridge that will continue to be there when the homeless need a voice – and a hand up, not a hand out,” he stated.