Ocean County is the only New Jersey county without year-round transitional housing for the homeless
Ocean County is the only county in the state not to have year round transitional housing for the homeless.
On Episode 4 of 'Eyes On The Jersey Shore', I spoke with Toms River Councilman Terrance Turnbach and Paul Hulse, the President of 'Just Believe Inc.', on how we can better serve and help our homeless residents.
"Ocean County is the only county that doesn't have a transitional housing center/shelter," Paul Hulse, President of Just Believe Inc. tells Townsquare Media News.
"We have to do better, and that's at a county level, and I believe we've started that process so I'm not condemning them (the Commissioners) as much as I'm saying we've got to move forward with the transitional housing center year round with the proper services. You have to have the public educated too, it's not a shelter where people just go to be and be forever, that's not part of the plan," Toms River Councilman Terrance Turnbach tells Townsquare Media News.
Just Believe Inc. is a non-profit in Ocean County who helps the homeless find shelter and warmth during the fall and winter months, closing to providing those services on March 31 of every year under the current Code Blue law in New Jersey.
After that, the homeless in Ocean County go from place to place trying to survive.
"It's been difficult. We only get an opportunity 6-months out of the year to house people, get them plugged into some kind of resource and back on their feet," Paul Hulse tells Townsquare Media Jersey Shore News. "We have a short window of six-months out of the year to try and help and we range from 18-23 people a night."
Hulse says those who head into their shelter can stay as long as they need.
While inside, the volunteers work to help these individuals not only get warm and find something to eat, but work together to get back on their feet and make amends in their lives.
People who are homeless, come from all walks of life.
"As they're staying with us, they can get the help that they need. We automatically start an assessment program, we do an intake with them, find out what their needs are and start working with them and building that relationship," Hulse said. "It's all about trust with homelessness, they have to have trust in you, they're broken. It's not just the mental health part or the drug addiction part, it's the trust issue. They've broken peoples hearts, they've broken peoples lives through their homelessness and when they get to that point where they're coming to you, they feel they're damaged goods, they're afraid they're going to damage you too because they've damaged all of these people."
As Paul has been called into this line of work, he has experienced for himself first hand, what it takes to live as a homeless person, to live in the shoes of the people he serves.
It started while he was living and working in Florida up until 2011.
"I actually moved into a homeless shelter for 90-days just so I had the understanding and the concept of how can I relate, how can I talk to people, how do I understand what they're truly going through if I've never gone through it myself," Hulse said. "Now, I stay every night at the Code Blue Center. Over the last four seasons, I've only missed 10-days."
Toms River Councilman Terrance Turnbach also experienced life as a homeless person and what it was like to sleep outside in the cold just a couple weeks ago, when he slept overnight outside town hall in downtown Toms River.
"That night outside was a learning experience for me because it was cold and you go into that night knowing, 'I have a home, I have a place to go to in the morning'. At 3-AM, when you're freezing...on my mind was all the homeless residents of Ocean County and I'm sitting here in this tent and I know that in 3-4 hours I'm going home but the experience that they have at times is, 'how am I surviving? what am I doing in the morning? where can I go to get warm?' and it was an enlightening experience for me and something I'm glad I did and something that has sparked conversation alongside Paul (Hulse) with the Ocean County Commissioners," Turnbach tells Townsquare Media News.
He came away with a number of other takeaways as well on trying to step in the shoes of the homeless and get an understanding for how they survive.
"You don't realize how resourceful the homeless have to be to survive, that's the reality of it," Turnbach said. "I was prepared, I knew I was doing this but our homeless residents don't necessarily have that and they have to be resourceful enough to make it through the nights."
They are now taking their experiences and their skills and leadership roles to help change the status quo in Ocean County and provide food and shelter year round for the homeless in our community.
"The push that Paul and I are trying to make here is to establish a transitional housing center here in Ocean County," Turnbach said. "We have to do better, and that's at a county level, and I believe we've started that process so I'm not condemning them (the Commissioners) as much as I'm saying we've got to move forward with the transitional housing center year round with the proper services. You have to have the public educated too, it's not a shelter where people just go to be and be forever, that's not part of the plan."
The idea with a transitional house center, Turnbach explains, is to be able to help residents have a place to stay and help them get back on their feet again in society.
"There are residents out there who need our help," Turnbach said.
There has been a way of approaching this issue in Ocean County, Turnbach adds, that isn't working anymore.
"I think our community leaders have to adapt to change and admit that just because something's been done in one particular way for 30-40 years, it doesn't necessarily mean that it's the right way," Turnbach said. "What I mean by that is, for the other 6 months of the year, what are our leaders doing...we're putting people up in hotels and motels and yes, you are providing shelter with that but you're not providing any of the transitional services that are going to help people."
You can learn more about how we can help the homeless from Toms River Councilman Terrance Turnbach and Paul Hulse below: