About 10 to 15 homeless persons were evacuated from the wooded areas off of Route 37 in Toms River, according to Brother Mike Williams, of the More to Life Ministry.
Relocations began Tuesday and concluded Wednesday.
Toms River Police Chief Michael Mastronardy said the move was prompted by the owners of the properties where the two encampments exist — near the bus station south of Water Street and in the wooded area between James Street and Route 37 near Route 166.
“We have a few who are trespassing on private property,” Mastronardy said, “and the property owners do not want the liability and have posted 'No Trespassing' signs.”
The larger of the camps was off Route 37, behind James Street and behind the plazas of Blockbuster and McDonalds, where about 10 people resided in an encampment that was several years old. Another encampment was near the bus station off West Water Street on property belonging to the Municipal Utilities Authority.
Mastronardy said the county’s Board of Social Services was brought in to assist the people who are being removed from those sites.
“We gave them rides to Social Services and they have been offered assistance,” he said.
Meredith Sheehan, supervisor of social work at the Ocean County Board of Social Services, confirmed there was an outreach made to provide information about services to people who qualify. "Anyone who may have come in was seen by a worker here to determine if they were eligible for our services. If they were eligible, we have provided temporary shelter."
Those that applied for assistance were granted help in the form of housing and various programs for the duration of at least six months to one year, depending on the specific individuals circumstances, Williams said.
A 60-year-old man, one of the homeless who resides at the camp, will be taken to a motel in Seaside Heights.
Many of the others have set up a new encampment in an undisclosed area in Toms River, aided by supporters.
"I will be there for them to help them through it all along the way," Williams said. "I have been frequenting the camps, providing help and hope to those in need for about the last three years or so without any problems from the township or police until recently."
"As it seems, it was all done with good intentions and with the hope that those that need it most could get the necessary help and wouldn't have to continue to resort to living in a tent in the woods," Williams said.
Members of the Rugged Cross motorcycle club also assisted, providing transportation to some of the individuals forced to move.
Police said removing individuals from the land came without incident. "No Trespassing" signs were recently placed at both camps and regular police visits to the camp were made to the camp, and Williams said a 10-day deadline was given to relocate.