BARNEGAT, NJ – A United States Army veteran plans to donate 36 acres of land on Route 72 in Barnegat to set up transitional housing for homeless vets.
Martin Weber and his late partner, Jeff Poissant, purchased the property in October 1994. Weber attributes Poissant’s death a few years ago to delays in receiving medical care from the Veteran’s Administration.
“Our government is not taking enough care of our vets,” said Weber. “I have to do what I can in Jeff’s memory to help make things right.”
The 2020 Estimate of Veteran Homeless Report released by the federal government this month estimates over 37,000 veterans are without permanent shelter. Joblessness, mental health issues, and addiction problems add to the reasons veterans are without homes.
Weber recently joined forces with Paul Hulse, CEO of Just Believe, Inc., a non-profit organization whose mission statement focuses on “restoring hope in humanity.”
Just Believe, Inc. runs a Code Blue warming center in Toms Rivers that opens at 5 pm and allows people to stay overnight when temperatures drop below 32°. The organization plans to set up a homeless shelter at an undisclosed location in Ocean County.
Preliminary plans call for transforming Weber’s property into a community of tiny homes for homeless veterans. Slated as traditional housing for 3-4 years, the complex would provide services designed to prevent future homelessness.
“People would be brought in and given the help they need,” Weber shared. “Things like their emotional and mental issues, as well as job placement.”
Hulse recognizes the issue of homelessness is one that strikes many aspects of society. An ordained pastor, he says Just Believe, Inc. is a public charity and not a faith-based organization. His personal motivation shines through as doing God’s work.
At one point, Hulse decided that in order to help the homeless, he needed to experience the desperation firsthand. He voluntarily moved into a homeless shelter for 90 days.
“It was part of my training,” said Hulse. “I wanted to learn. How can you minister to someone’s life if you’ve never experienced it yourself?”
Both Weber and Hulse acknowledge their joint venture requires passing several legal hurdles. The state needs to pass legislation allowing the construction of tiny houses. The Pinelands Commission and other government agencies would also need to be part of the process. Barnegat’s local ordinances do not currently address the feasibility of the planned project.
Funding remains another critical factor in the concept. Weber has already discussed his ideas with a friend he made when he ran for Congress last year.
Weber’s loss to Congressman Andy Kim (NJ-03) came with something he did not expect. He met Kim as the two campaigned against one another. Weber told him the story of losing the love of his life to what he viewed as a lack of services to those who served the United States.
“I told Andy at that time that if he won the election, I still wanted to become involved in veterans’ issues,” Weber said. “He accepted my offer and agreed that vets deserved the best.”
Kim reviewed the preliminary plans that Weber and Just Believe, Inc. have put together as far as transitional housing on Weber’s land. The three got together recently and discussed the next steps.
“No veteran should ever go to sleep without a roof over their head; our country owes them that. This is a problem that is going to take solutions from all levels of government and from our communities,” said Kim. “The work the team at Just Believe and veterans like Marty Weber are doing, gives voice and hope to those who need it.”