Homeless Shelter Returns To Oceanport

November 25, 2015
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Serves Those In Immediate Need

trtplaceholderblue-wBy Muriel J. Smith

OCEANPORT – The temporary homeless shelter for ten men and ten women will re-open in Building 901, adjacent to where the borough’s Public Works department is now housed, bringing the County’s Social Services facility back to the borough where it was before Super Storm Sandy, according to Freeholder Lillian Burry, a member of the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority. (FMERA)

The facility has been temporarily located in one of the buildings at the John L Montgomery care center in Freehold. Since that facility is being sold by Monmouth County to a private firm, the temporary housing there has to be relocated. The 901 building at Fort Monmouth had been home to the NJ National Guard in past years.

Before Super Storm Sandy, the facility had been located in one of the former barracks at Fort Monmouth; however, those buildings have all been deemed beyond restoration and are slated for demolition. Because of the mandates, other quarters within the Oceanport portion of the former army base, had to be found for the facility. The new location is a building located closer to Main St., Oceanport, a decision which apparently has sparked some complaints from local residents. The largest portion of Fort Monmouth, including the marina which has been sold to a private developer and is now on the tax rolls, is in Oceanport, with Tinton Falls and Eatontown sharing the remaining portions of the base which was once employed 5,460 personnel, approximately 4,600 of them civilian employees.

Councilman John Patti, filling in for Oceanport Mayor Michael Mahon on the FMERA board, in October, read a statement, commenting, “Residents are at their wits’ end. Relocation of the homeless shelter must be thoroughly discussed in the best interests of Oceanport. We are seeking good neighbors. We want to work together with this board to find a suitable place, if in fact it must be placed in Oceanport.”

Bringing the shelter back to Oceanport, however, has been in the plan since the federal Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Act stipulated that a Homeless Assistance Submission (HAS) be part of the Redevelopment and Reuse Plan. The plan approved by FMERA’s predecessor, the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Planning Authority (FMERPA) in 2008, was prepared with input from the Fort’s host municipalities – Oceanport, Eatontown, Tinton Falls, as well as Monmouth County, in 2007 through 2009. It was submitted to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which approved it in 2010.

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Burry was a charter member of the planning authority and appointed by Governor Jon Corzine at the time it was formed to determine the best use for the 1100-acre complex that had once been home to the US Army Signal Corps as well as several other Army facilities. She was subsequently appointed to the present authority, FMERA, by Governor Chris Christie, so has been with the planning and implementation stages of the Fort Monmouth revitalization since inception.

The approved plan calls for the shelter to be operated by Monmouth County and located in the Oceanport section of the Fort, in proximity to the former county-operated shelter which was housed in an Army building there for many years. That building was flooded and rendered unusable during Super Storm Sandy, making it necessary for the county to search for other locations within the Oceanport section of the Fort.

The shelter, which offers temporary housing to men and women who are in immediate need, are drug and alcohol-free and have no problems with law enforcement agencies, is a temporary facility, Burry explained, with the lease set to expire in three years. During its use, homeless persons in need are permitted to stay in the facility for 30 days; while at the facility, they are expected to look for employment and permanent housing on a daily basis, and must return to the facility by a specific time each evening. “These are not derelicts,” the freeholder continued, “they are people who are up against it and need a helping hand to help them get back on a better path.” There is space available in the two-story building for ten men and ten women on two separate floors, she said. The program is conducted under the county Social Service Division.

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The economic benefits for Oceanport spelled out in the Plan should be evaluated separately from a homeless shelter, Burry pointed out.

More than 437,000 square feet of office and research & development space is planned in the Oceanport section, as well as more than 112,000 square feet of retail and 360,000 square feet of civic space all scheduled over the first ten years of redevelopment. Eventually, an additional 200,000 square feet of office/R&D and 70,000 square feet of hotel/conference center space would be developed, in addition to 294 residential units.

Economic statisticians estimate more than $1 million in net positive fiscal impact for the borough, accounting for the estimated public service costs. Since the publication of the Reuse Plan, several parcels are actively in the redevelopment process in Phase 2 of the project. The Marina tract includes approximately four acres on Oceanport and Riverside avenues, and includes a 71-slip marina and boat launch ramp, a boathouse and off-street parking. Through an agreement between the Authority and the borough, and at the borough’s request, a marina operator was retained to open the marina for the 2014 season in order to ensure renewed activity at the site.

Other properties in the Oceanport re-use area include the former 600-seat Chapel and five acres of land, Russel Hall, the four-story administration building, the fitness Center, which includes 7.75 acres and three buildings, Building 552, a former recreation center known as the Dance Hall, and open space around the building as well as the former nurses’ quarters on approximately four acres of land.


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