FMERA Turns Away Homeless Veterans From Fort Monmouth
When Fort Monmouth closed in September 2011, plans to create housing for homeless veterans were already underway by the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA). Almost a decade after the fort’s closure, NJ’s homeless veterans will finally have a place to call home. But, it’s not Fort Monmouth.
Instead, homeless veterans will be housed in another location on Essex Road in Tinton Falls, adjacent to Fort Monmouth.
Finding the space for the project has not been easy. According to NJ Congressman Chris Smith, “for nearly a decade, [we’ve been] in the push to meet the compelling housing and service needs of homeless veterans and there have been many setbacks along the way, including an inability to secure space at Fort Monmouth.”
According to a March 2013 article, the Veteran’s project had been slated to take only five years. At that point, FMERA had been searching for a possible location for the veteran’s housing for over two years.
In fact, according to a recent Two Rivers Times article, despite heavy initial support, “finding a suitable location took an on-again, off-again long and winding road through the three towns the fort spans, Eatontown, Oceanport and Tinton Falls.” Each time a possible location on the fort was found, it would fail to come to fruition.
Lillian Burry, appointed in 2013 as Monmouth county’s representative to Fort Monmouth’s redevelopment efforts, said that Fort Monmouth was the ideal location for veterans’ housing because it would have been “the rest of the story for the former fort.”
The community will be built and managed by Soldier On, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing safe housing for our nation’s veterans. The organization has completed similar communities in New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts. Plans include a multipurpose community room, outdoor patio and grills, a greenhouse and community garden, walking paths, communications technology in all units, and a memorial columbarium with an eternal flame where ashes of deceased residents can be interred. Through the program, according to Soldier On CEO Bruce Buckley, our nation’s heroes “don’t die on the street and they don’t ever leave us.”
Homelessness among American veterans is an ongoing crisis. According to a report published in January 2020 by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, there are approximately 40,056 homeless veterans any given night in America.
New Jersey is currently home to more than 300 homeless veterans, the new housing will give 70 of our heroes a place to call home.
There is no doubt that Fort Monmouth, a historic, storied military fort, would have been an ideal location for veteran’s housing. There are certainly enough available buildings and open space to have completed the project. Why then were our veterans turned away from Fort Monmouth and the necessity of providing safe housing pushed off for nearly a decade? Only FMERA knows for sure.