In an example of government-private cooperation unprecedented in the nation, a New Jersey tent city was closed the right way: through housing. Approximately 120 homeless men and women who participated in a court-ordered census will all be out of the woods and in safe, indoor housing for at least a year. In a joint announcement, Lakewood's Deputy Mayor, Albert Akerman, and Jeff Wild of the Lowenstein Sandler law firm, counsel for the homeless, proudly commended the efforts of all involved, particularly Mike McNeil, President of Solutions to End Poverty Soon ("STEPS"), to place the homeless residents of Tent City into housing and out of the woods where, for years, a community of people had lived, including through cold and sometimes deadly winters.
Lakewood Tent City had been the subject of national and international attention, as a result of a multi-year court case that Lakewood and the homeless were able to resolve through a court-supervised housing agreement.
Jeff Wild stated: "I am thrilled to have worked cooperatively with Lakewood and STEPS to get all of this law firm's clients housed. This is also a great precedent for further cooperation with Ocean County to address homelessness." Mr. Wild is also a founder and trustee of the New Jersey Coalition to End Homelessness, a non-profit that advocates for the end of homelessness throughout New Jersey. Mayor Akerman stated: "Today is what we in Lakewood have wanted all along: the official closure date for Tent City with the closing done the right way, by helping these people get housed in a fair and compassionate way."
One former resident of Tent City, Tonya Henderson, who is now housed and looking for a new job put it: "With a little bad luck, anyone could end up homeless. I am so grateful to be out of the woods and in housing."
Jeffrey J. Wild, Esq.
LOWENSTEIN SANDLER LLP
Counsel for the former residents of Tent City
Michael M. DiCicco, Esq.
BATHGATE, WEGENER & WOLF, P.C.
Counsel for Lakewood Township
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