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Town's controversial move to deter unhoused people sparks outrage online: 'Make everything worse for everybody'

"It belongs to the public. And they (unhoused people) should have the right to stay on public property."

"It belongs to the public. And they (unhoused people) should have the right to stay on public property.”

Photo Credit: iStock

In 2022, the township of Lakewood, New Jersey, decided that the shade provided by trees in a town square was, apparently, proving too beneficial to local people, so they were cut down.

Officials were unhappy that unhoused people were making use of the protection from the sun the trees provided, so removing the greenery from the area seemed like the logical next step to them.

Posted in the r/mildlyinfuriating subreddit, commenters could not believe that this was even an option. 

"My town got rid of the shade trees in the downtown park [because] homeless people were using them for shade," the original poster wrote in the caption above a photo of an article from the Asbury Park Press. 

 Lakewood Town Square
Photo Credit: u/DroopyMcCool / Reddit

"Gotta love communities where hurting people experiencing homelessness is more important than the rest of the community getting to enjoy the space," one Redditor said.

"Wow so now the park is entirely unusable on hot days," added another. 

"I can't imagine the type of misanthropic mind that is willing to make everything worse for everybody, just to get a shot in on people they really hate," another disappointed reader said.  

Not only is the decision an unnecessarily cruel move that makes life worse for unhoused people, but it also deprives the community of green space and shaded areas, not to mention the improved air quality that trees help to create. 

According to City Parks Alliance, trees in urban parks can remove as much as one billion pounds (711,000 tons) of toxins from the air every year. While Lakewood Town Square perhaps wouldn't provide quite as much purification considering the distribution of greenery that was once there, the trees would have been a benefit to local residents.

The organization also noted that green spaces in urban areas can reduce heat-island effects, in which heat is trapped in materials like concrete, stone and asphalt and released into the surrounding area, increasing ground temperatures as a result. Trees, bushes, and grass can absorb and trap heat more effectively. 

With the town square seemingly covered in brick, the cooling effect provided by the scattering of trees would have been welcome. 

Lakewood Mayor Ray Coles said the move was taken following complaints of people urinating and defecating in the area, but minister and head of Lakewood Outreach Ministry Steven Brigham told Asbury Park Press that cutting down trees was "not the answer." 

"Public parks property is public property," Brigham said. "It belongs to the public. And they (homeless people) should have the right to stay on public property."

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