LAKEWOOD, N.J. (AP) — Another winter —the seventh one now — is bearing down on Tent City, the encampment of homeless people living in the woods not far from the Jersey shore.
With their ultimate fate still up in the air as a court battle grinds on and both sides try to work out a resolution, two medical societies took it upon themselves to try to make sure this winter will be slightly more bearable. They donated 14 boxes of clothing, blankets, medical supplies, and discount prescription cards Wednesday to help the homeless afford medication for conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes and heart ailments.
"As physicians, we're looking for places to give back, and this is a way to help people who literally have nothing," said Wayne Foster, a plastic surgeon who is president of the Ocean County Medical Society.
And the Medical Society of New Jersey handed out discount prescription cards to the homeless to help them purchase medication for conditions including high blood pressure, diabetes and heart problems.
"I'm grateful for the help," said Vera Tims, who has lived at the camp since shortly after it opened. She and her boyfriend picked up some coats and winter clothing from the picnic table where the donations were arrayed. "I put myself in God's hands and I do all right."
There's about 80 people at the camp, located about 11 miles northwest of Seaside Heights.
The Rev. Steven Brigham, of the Lakewood Outreach Ministry Church, which helped establish the camp, said it grew out of default.
"There is no homeless shelter in Ocean County, and the age-old policy of putting them in hotel rooms in Seaside Heights is proving too expensive," he said. "The homeless here are given a one-way bus ticket to Atlantic City. It looks like we'll be here for yet another winter, and we have no idea how bad it will be. All we do know is short days and cold nights are coming."
Jeffrey Wild, an attorney representing the Tent City residents in their legal showdown with Lakewood and Ocean County officials, said both sides are engaged in confidential court-ordered mediation to try to find a permanent solution. He could not describe details of the talks, but said he is encouraged with what he has seen thus far.
"I am always optimistic because I refuse to accept that people think that other human beings should live outdoors in the middle of winter," he said. "No one should have to live like that."
Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC