Months later, the future of Howell homeless camp is still in limbo
HOWELL — Just as they did over the summer, residents of a homeless camp along Route 9 South are wondering how long they'll be able to stay on the land, and where they'll go next when their time is up.
Steve Brigham, a minister who coordinates the camp and lives in a tent on the site, said community members are in limbo as they wait for relocation assistance from the new landowner. Half a dozen residents have found accommodations on their own.
Terms in the property's June auction indicated that the buyer, Lakewood resident Richard Roberts, would assume responsibility for relocating the members of the homeless community, located on township-owned land, and assist in that relocation "financially or otherwise."
"A standard in the area is six months in standard housing — a hotel or apartment — for people that are re-located off of government property," Brigham told New Jersey 101.5. "We're just hoping that the township and the buyer do what is an American standard in this area."
Jeff Wild, an attorney in Roseland who represents the camp's members, said discussions are ongoing with Howell and the attorneys for the buyer.
"Hopefully, Howell and Dr. Roberts will work with the advocates for the homeless men and women to close the camp and relocate its residents in a humane and lawful way," said Wild, of Lowenstein Sandler in Roseland. "We could close the camp anytime if the parties do so cooperatively."
During a visit to the camp in July, New Jersey 101.5 was told by Brigham that the buyer offered $1,000 to each of the camp's residents to help them with their transition. Everyone refused.
According to Howell Deputy Mayor Rob Nicastro, any proposed offer of assistance has been met with resistance or refusal. Nicastro said Destiny's Bridge, which oversees the encampment, has failed to act in good faith with the purchaser of the property.
"However, we remain confident the parties will work together and an amicable settlement will be found," he said.
Attempts to reach Roberts' legal team were unsuccessful.
Brigham also ran Tent City in Lakewood before it was shut down in 2014.