Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the goal of Land for the Homeless?
The goal of Land for the Homeless (L4H) is to purchase a plot of private land for the homeless to be able to camp on without fear of being evicted or persecuted.
What makes Land for the Homeless different from traditional homeless shelters?
Land for the Homeless doesn’t consider its first facility to really be a “homeless shelter”. While providing our clients with protection from the elements is the most essential function of delivering immediate assistance to them, we would like to be able to partner with outside parties and organizations in order to provide job training and placement assistance, nutritional assistance, physical and mental health referrals, addiction treatment, and counseling services to help the homeless be able to better themselves and overcome their hardships. In short, Land for the Homeless aims to establish a supervised and supportive community of compassion and progress for the overall betterment of those who have nowhere else to turn.
Why place tents instead of building houses?
Quite simply, placing tents is extraordinarily cheaper than constructing buildings. With thousands of homeless people across New Jersey alone, shelter overcrowding has become a major issue. This is due to the massive expense associated with the construction, operation, and maintenance of a traditionally structured homeless shelter. The end result is that there winds up being more homeless than there are available beds to offer them which leads to many homeless individuals getting placed on shelter waiting lists while they are left unsheltered and out, sometimes for months at a time, facing harsh conditions until there is an opening available. The philosophy behind our community plan is that “a tent is better than a park bench”. Tents are insulated, fairly easy to set up, can be covered, and are easily heated and cooled. People have been living in tents for thousands of years and, with the advent of “glamping”, tent-based housing is once again becoming a popular alternative to permanent brick and mortar housing accommodations.
Why not use tiny homes or trailers instead of tents?
Tiny homes, trailers, and other constructed micro-shelters are unfortunately still quite expensive to purchase, build, or maintain. While tiny homes do have the strong advantage of being compact, even the cheapest of tiny homes can easily cost thousands of dollars and take several months to piece together. Trailers are immensely expensive to construct, and even the oldest and most broken down ones already fabricated cost thousands of dollars to purchase and much more to transport. Beyond this, other experimentally constructed micro-shelters have yet to reach a comparable material cost to tents. This is not to say that Land for the Homeless would not be willing or interested in using these tools in the future, especially if they are donated or come down in price. However, for the meantime, the homeless are in need of the immediate assistance that can easily be provided for with tents.
Has anyone else ever tried something like this?
Yes, actually. In fact, there are approximately 8 legally organized tent communities across America today (http://money.cnn.com/2014/05/16/pf/tent-city/) where the homeless live. However, none of them are located within our area (New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, or Maryland).
Is the community going to be an eyesore to residents or the township?
Our desire is not to drop the homeless population into a particular area for the sake of displeasing the residents of that area. However, one thing remains certain and this is that the homeless in our area desperately need a physical location where they can simply exist without being attacked, persecuted, exposed to the elements, or evicted. There is a significant “not in my backyard” attitude within a place as expensive to live in as New Jersey. However, our intent is to have strong involvement from the local community and to set clear boundaries and codes of conduct for our clients to follow so that the property rights of our neighbors are not infringed. In addition, we will always comply with all necessary regulations and laws while pursuing our charitable vision. We hope that the nearby residents will realize how much safer it is to have a place like the first Land for the Homeless facility than to let the homeless continue to live unsupervised and at risk in the woods. The truth is that while many people may not notice them, the homeless already are living in the “backyards” of our state and it’s better to move these people into a safe and well-monitored location to do what they’d be doing anyway than to let them pose a danger to themselves and others trying to live in the unforgiving wilderness of our area.
What’s to stop the community from burning down, imploding on itself, etc.?
Land for the Homeless intends to take every precaution possible in order to ensure the safety of our clients and staff. This includes ready access to first aid supplies, the ability to contact emergency services, fire extinguishers and blankets, as well as easy accessibility to administrators whom clients and volunteers alike can turn to with concerns and complaints. In listening to the concerns of our clients and volunteers, we hope to help mitigate the risk factors associated with the operation of our facility. In addition to this, Land for the Homeless reserves the rights to run background checks on all clients, volunteers, employees, and contractors in order to ensure that the organization does not contain criminally violent individuals. The pathways and communal areas of the facility will remain well-lit at all times, all portions of the facility will remain well maintained, and staff will be prepped on how to handle various situations that may arise and clients and staff alike will be informed on how to conduct themselves to ensure that such situations do not occur in the first place (no open flames, following proper sanitary procedures, etc.).
The fact of the matter is that no matter what, Land for the Homeless will always be infinitely safer than the alternative – illegally organized and unsupervised fringe camps where the homeless are hiding and don’t have access to food, water, or proper health assistance in which there are many individuals who are mentally ill or have drug addictions and cook out in the middle of the woods near residential areas with open flames and relieve themselves onto foliage with nothing to use to clean themselves up. These camps with these conditions continue to keep popping up across our state as the homeless have nowhere else to go and whenever one is evicted, the homeless simply pack up and move to a new location which disperses the problem instead of solving it (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/24/homeless-camping-ban_n_6374914.html). For this reason, Land for the Homeless is safer not only for our clients, but safer for homeowners and families who are located in the many areas the homeless secretly live in.
What’s your policy on drugs and alcohol?
We have a zero tolerance policy for the abuse of drugs and alcohol on our premises. One of the most concerning issues that has been expressed to us is that in the illegally organized, unsupervised, and more chaotic homeless camps, recovering addicts have been living alongside those who continue to misuse drugs and alcohol within the same vicinity as those who are “clean”. Land for the Homeless refuses to maintain an environment in which people feel enabled or tempted to engage in substance abuse. Through partnering with outside organizations to help address the addictions of some of our clients, we will instead create a supportive environment which will encourage our clientele to kick their damaging habits and get back on the right track.
Why can’t the homeless help themselves?
Homeless individuals make up a population comprised of diverse demographics. According to the New Jersey 2015 Point In Time Count, 58% percent of the homeless in NJ have some form of disability. And, according to SAMHSA (2011), 30% of homeless individuals have some form of mental illness. Those with physical and mental disabilities are particularly vulnerable to unemployment and underemployment (http://www.shrm.org/hrdisciplines/diversity/articles/pages/people-with-disabilities-are-plentiful-and-underemployed.aspx).
While not all who are homeless are subject to these marginalizing factors, there are disadvantages which all homeless individuals face. As anyone who has recovered from financial hardship can confirm – getting back on one’s feet is a long and difficult process. Living without a consistent shelter compounds this issue. Searching for a job presents its own set of challenges, but doing so without typical household resources makes it exceptionally hard to get and maintain employment that will give one the support to live independently. To compound this issue, some of the traditional homeless shelters in New Jersey close as early as 4 pm which makes it very difficult for even sheltered homeless people to be able to get and maintain steady jobs.
Adding to these financial struggles, local laws have criminalized those who may not be able to find shelter in traditional homeless housing options. These force homeless individuals to relocate and further uproot their lives, hindering progress. With all of these factors taken into consideration, there a good deal of our clients who don’t know how to take the first step in helping themselves, and this is why we want to be there in order to guide them and ultimately help the homeless help themselves.
Who will you not allow into the facility?
In order to maintain the safety of the facility, clients with violent criminal convictions will not be permitted to stay with Land for the Homeless. Those convicted of lesser offenses will be reviewed on a case by case basis and L4H maintains the right to run background checks on any and all of our beneficiaries and deny service to anyone who we feel will violate the sanctity of our facility. However, we have a very inclusive nondiscrimination policy which covers sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, race, color, national origin, religion, and physical handicap or disability. With this stated, we are also not equipped to handle children/minors within our facility. Any child or minor that wishes to stay with Land for the Homeless will be instead referred to outside organizations and agencies which are able to accommodate their needs.
How will you help the homeless become self-sufficient?
Land for the Homeless wants to partner with as many outside parties and organizations as possible so that we can help the homeless to get themselves back on their feet. This includes professionals who are interested in offering some of our clients apprenticeships in addition to groups and individuals that can provide essential skills and job training. On top of this, we would like to be able to help our clients with actual job placement in order for them to be able to start saving enough money for a place of their own. We also seek to bring in addiction and mental health counselors as well as social workers who will be able to work with of our clients to solve some of the root causes of their impoverished circumstance. We will maintain an accepting group atmosphere which treats its members with dignity and respect while being constructive and encouraging enough to empower our clients to work toward bettered futures. It’s essential for us to keep a positive and motivating attitude when dealing with our clients and let them know that they aren’t worth less than anybody else simply because of what their current economic condition may be.
How can I help Land for the Homeless?
Land for the Homeless needs all the assistance it can get to achieve our mission. We need you to help us help the homeless! We need volunteers/fundraisers, donated items, donated event space, land donations, organizational partners, operating funds, and professionals who are willing to volunteer their services (lawyers, accountants, social workers, and construction workers). Contact us for more information, donate at landforthehomeless.org/donate or volunteer at landforthehomeless.org/volunteer