In the Woods tells the story of a homeless community living in the woods, fighting a lawsuit against eviction, searching for affordable housing in America.
When the township files a lawsuit against the homeless for trespassing, a Lawyer takes up their case and countersues the government. With interviews and observational footage shot over a year, the story of Tent City is told through the interweaving of personal narratives with the ongoing litigation.
A documentary in progress by Kalim Armstrong
As you know, the hearing on Lakewood’s motion to shut down Tent City is currently scheduled for Friday, January 6th at 9 a.m. at 100 Hooper Avenue in Toms River, Courtroom 3. Yesterday, on behalf of the Homeless Individuals, Lowenstein Sandler PC filed court papers in opposition to that motion.
Most of you are not lawyers, but you may still want to read some of the Certifications given by residents of Tent City, the Certification by Minister Steve Brigham and/or our written arguments to the Court (in our legal brief). If you have not been to Tent City or have not met its residents, these documents may be eye-opening, and all can be accessed by clicking below:
Finally, if anyone wants to support the new NJ Coalition to End Homelessness and its work to work to end homelessness statewide, tax-deductible donations can now be made by credit card, using the link below. In any event, by having already signed up for the Coalition’s mailing list, all of you have already shown your support for NJ’s homeless, which is so critical as winter nears:
Reverend Steve Brigham discusses the state of Tent City, which he founded outside of Lakewood, N.J. The county does not provide shelter for the homeless. Brigham’s attorney from Lowenstein and Sandler, Jeff Wild, joins the conversation.
This afternoon, we filed new and expanded court claims on behalf of Ocean County’s homeless against Lakewood Township and Ocean County. As you know, Lakewood began the lawsuit by seeking to eject the community of approximately 70 homeless men and women, including victims of the economy, living in the Lakewood tent city on publicly owned land in the woods. In addition, the Atlantic City Rescue Mission has now sided against Lakewood and Ocean County, including claims against Lakewood and the County for, collectively, in excess of $2 million: the costs that the Mission contends it has wrongfully had to bear to provide emergency assistance to residents of Ocean County and Lakewood.
Among other things, the court filing today (an Amended Answer, Counterclaim and Third Party Complaint) alleges that Lakewood and Ocean County have violated New Jersey’s General Poor Laws by turning away thousands of men, women and children who sought emergency shelter and other emergency assistance. The filing also alleges that Ocean County has engaged in systematic, improper “interpretations” of other laws, the Specific Poor Laws, and wrongfully denied emergency shelter under those laws. A copy of today’s court filing is attached. The main defenses to Lakewood’s Complaint start on p. 5, and the claims against Lakewood and the County are on pp. 8 – 34.
In addition, as you already know, Lakewood has now — more than a year into the litigation, with the winter approaching — filed a motion asking Judge Foster to declare that Lakewood can force the homeless out of their tents in the woods, even though we contend that there is no available shelter for them in Ocean County. Once again, the hearing on Lakewood’s motion is scheduled for Friday, November 18th at 9 a.m. at the Superior Court of New Jersey, 100 Hooper Avenue, in Toms River.
Jeffrey J. Wild Member of the Firm Lowenstein Sandler PC
Jeff Wild, the lawyer representing the residents of Tent City, has sent out a call to show support for the homeless of Ocean County.
Dear Coalition Members:
As it threatened at the last status conference, Lakewood has filed a motion to shut down the Lakewood Tent City. A copy of the motion papers is attached. The hearing has been scheduled for Friday, November 18th at 9 a.m. at Judge Foster’s courtroom at the Ocean County Courthouse, 100 Hooper Avenue, Courtroom 7, in Toms River. Please mark your calendars and spread the word. As many of us as possible should be at the November 19th hearing to show that we care about the residents of Tent City and all of Ocean County’s homeless. The date/time could change, and if so, we will let you know. We will also be in touch about other ways that we can take action to help not only those in Tent City, but all of New Jersey’s homeless.
Basically, Lakewood is arguing that even though they are members of the public with no place to sleep but the public woods, the homeless are “trespassers” whom Lakewood has the right to remove. As stated in a footnote (on p. 1 of the legal brief), Lakewood “is not seeking the immediate ejectment” of the homeless — but is seeking a court order “that no new persons are permitted to occupy the Property” and for “an orderly vacation of the Property by the Defendants” — whatever that means. This law firm will prepare papers to oppose the motion. Stay tuned for further information.
Jeffrey J. Wild
Member of the Firm
Lowenstein Sandler PC
Check put this link for an update on the outcome of the case managment hearing in Toms River on March 14th. Our documentary crew was granted press credentials and allowed into the court room. I am told this has been allowed only a few times in New Jersey history. Asbury Park Press Article
Jeffrey J. Wild, a Roseland attorney representing some of the homeless residents in Tent City, said he expects the county will file a motion to dismiss the case at next month’s hearing.
Lawyers for the county made that assertion in court Monday in response to litigation filed by homeless advocates against the Board of Freeholders and its Board of Social Services. The county government is being petitioned to open a shelter as an alternative to the encampments such as Tent City in Lakewood that have popped up in the woods off main highways.
Vincent J. Grasso, the Superior Court assignment judge in Toms River, said he would hear oral arguments on the matter April 29. In the meantime, he set a series of deadlines for both parties to submit written briefs in the case.
“Quite frankly, we feel the programs we currently provide through the Department of Human Services and the Board of Social Services more than satisfies all the requirements to assist the poor and needy in Ocean County,” Ocean County general counsel John C. Sahradnik said after Monday’s hearing.
If you are interested in donating directly to the Tent City you can contact Rev. Steve Brigham of the Lakewood Outreach Ministry Church at (732) 364- 0340 or (732) 814-5537. There is also a post office box at Lakewood Outreach Ministry Church, P.O. Box 326, Lakewood 08701