Lakewood sues homeless to force them out of camp

The News Leader

June 30, 2010 7:55:55 AM PDT
One New Jersey shore town has tried pleading, threatening and reasoning with a group of homeless squatters camping in the woods.

Now the township of Lakewood is suing them.

A lawsuit filed Monday against dozens of squatters aims to force them to move from their encampment into temporary housing the township says it is pursuing for them.

The lawsuit calls the homeless "trespassers" who have done "irreparable harm" to public property.

It also seeks payment of attorney and other fees, although how those fees could be collected from the indigent squatters was unclear.

Mayor Steven Langert, who had been talking about clearing the camp since April, says Lakewood doesn't plan to remove anyone before finding temporary housing for them.

"We are not throwing the homeless out on the street," he said.

"We are trying to do this to benefit and protect them and the town. We have been working with the county, and now is the time to do this so that we can bring all the stakeholders to the table to resolve the issue."

Mike McNeil, whose nonprofit Solutions To End Poverty Soon has been looking for permanent housing for the camp's residents, said the goal is to have them out of the woods by September.

A health care center in nearby Toms River has agreed to take in those with mental or physical disabilities.