Ocean County homelessness will be topic of discussion

A second forum, sponsored by Kiwanis and Rotary clubs in Ocean County, will bring together the homeless, business leaders, clergy, government officials and interested residents to discuss strategies to eliminate temporary and long-term homelessness in Ocean County.

According to a press release, more than 170 people attended a homeless forum in January and learned the personal stories of men, women and children who have been living on the streets of Ocean County during the winter.

The forum will take place on March 28 beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Toms River branch of the Ocean County Library, 101 Washington St., Toms River. Participants will discuss strategies that have been successfully employed elsewhere in the state and find ways to adapt them to Ocean County’s needs, according to the press release.

“Following the January forum, many people asked how they could help the homeless,” said Fran Polito, Kiwanis Club of Jackson president. “This follow-up forum will provide them with options to assist those in need.”

“After listening to the heartbreaking stories of the homeless, listening to former professionals who had solid careers and stable homes tell of events that were beyond their control rob them of all that, we all realize these same things can happen to us,” said Carl Nuermberger, a member of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Toms River. Among the solutions to be discussed at the forum will be the Housing First model and the County Homelessness Trust Fund.

The Housing First model seeks to provide shelter for the homeless without preconditions to entering the program.

The trust fund allows county governments to implement a $3 surcharge to land transfer deeds. The proceeds can be used to provide housing and services to families who are homeless, according to the press release.

Twelve counties in New Jersey have approved the trust fund. Ocean County has yet to approve it.

The forum will give the business and professional communities an opportunity to offer their expertise in finance to combat homelessness.

Clergy members will share how their congregations are galvanizing around the issues of social justice for the homeless.

Government officials will be able to establish a network and work together to provide housing for their residents.

Everyone is invited to attend the March 28 forum and is encouraged to bring suggestions to end homelessness. The forum is free and open to the public.

Groups that assist the homeless will be on hand at 6 p.m. to showcase their activities and offer people opportunities to volunteer.