Toms River officials close on finalizing deal for Jackson homeless shelter


JACKSON, NJ – Terrance Turnbach, an elected Democrat councilman and a criminal defense attorney is one step closer to building a homeless shelter in Jackson Township. After facing criticism in his own town after declaring he would build it in his own backyard if he could, Turnbach is now pushing forward to build the shelter in Jackson Township along I-195.

Shore News Network first broke this a month ago: Ginny Haines, Freeholder Discussing Plan to Build Regional Homeless Shelter in Jackson Township

The land near Progress Place, Jackson’s failed attempt to build an industrial park in the late 1990s is owned by the county of Ocean. Ocean County once tried to build a prison work farm, but Jackson residents fought back and stopped the county from building a criminal work farm there.

Turnbach has powerful allies in his push for a homeless shelter in Jackson. He is supported by Ocean County Commissioner Gary Quinn, who is up for re-election in June’s primary election, and Virginia Haines. Haines, a Lakewood native now lives in Toms River.

“I think we are going to get there,” Turnbach said in an interview with the Asbury Park Press this week. “We have an organization that wants to run it.”

The worst part about the Jackson Homeless shelter on Cedar Swamp Road is that the county is not going to own or operate. Instead, they are leaving that up to a non-profit agency run by Turnbach and his associates. The county will have no authority or oversight over the facility, the Ocean County Freeholders (Commissioners) said this week.

It will be built on 113 acres of forest to be cleared along Cedar Swamp Road across the street from the Jackson Park and Ride.

Jackson Mayor Michael Reina has also been silent on the project since it was announced last month. Reina is employed by the commissioners where he works as a bridge worker, a politically appointed job handed to him for his position as mayor. Reina to date has not responded to the news of the homeless shelter coming to Jackson.

Residents fear a homeless shelter would not only attract Ocean County’s growing number of homeless, many with chronic mental issues, drug addiction and alcohol problems, but a homeless shelter in rural Jackson would also be a draw for the homeless around the state.

A simple $5 bus ticket from a dangerous North Jersey homeless shelter could be the ticket to a premier homeless shelter at the Jersey Shore.

Now, Turnbach is calling his homeless shelter “Transitional Housing” to soften the political blow for residents. Turnbach is also up for re-election in 2021.

With the moratorium on evictions during the pandemic about to end, officials now fear Ocean County will face a homeless crisis like never seen before in New Jersey. Thousands of residents are now under state protection against eviction under an executive order signed by Governor Phil Murphy.

The courts are already seeing a large caseload of pending evictions that will begin the day the moratorium expires. Homelessness could become a pandemic in itself and if built in time, the Jackson homeless shelter could be the new home to thousands of homeless from across the state.

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