Homeless veterans camp in Barnegat NJ comes to Yobuck Landscaping land
BARNEGAT – To motorists in the cars, trucks and tractor-trailers whizzing down Route 72, Marty Weber’s nearby property seems like just another wooded stretch of land.
But as he walks the tract — through his backyard, out through the parking lot of his landscaping business and into a parcel already cleared — Weber can make out the makings of a legacy.
It’s not his legacy, though: “It’s to keep Jeff’s legacy alive,” Weber said.
This is Jeff’s Camp, named after Jeff Poissant, Weber’s partner of 31 years who died of bladder cancer in 2016.
On Thursday, Weber signed the first paperwork that will eventually deed his 36-acre parcel to Just Believe, a Toms River nonprofit that will transform the site into a shelter for homeless veterans, especially those going through addiction or mental health struggles.
Now, the organization has started fundraising for the estimated $2.5 million project to build and provide preliminary funding for operating Jeff’s Camp, with an ongoing building fundraiser and a charity golf event in August.
“It makes the dream more of a reality for all of us,” said Paul Hulse, president and cofounder of Just Believe.
Poissant, who Weber met while serving in the Army in the 1980s, had bladder issues for years that went undetected at numerous Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals. When he was admitted to Jefferson University Hospital in 2016, doctors discovered the tumor on his bladder that would eventually kill him.
“He was killed by the U.S. government and the V.A. The V.A. just didn’t help,” Weber said. “I still cry every day.”
It was after Poissant’s death that Weber saw the property on which they lived and ran their business as a way to both honor his partner’s legacy and serve those he felt were let down by the V.A.
It’s the next step in what Weber sees as the completion of a mission Poissant always talked about: Helping veterans when they came home.
“If I passed away, he would have done the same thing,” Weber said.
Plans for the site include a six- or seven-bedroom sober living house specifically for veterans, who are often grouped with other addicts but deal with separate issues due to their military experience.
“These are guys who fought overseas, they fought in wars and for them, it’s a bigger struggle — the PTSD, the sleepless nights,” Hulse said. “If you can have veterans working with each other, it really just builds up the services we’re able to provide.”
The site will also include an 8,000-square-foot building with a center, operated by Marlton-based New Life Medical Addiction Services, that will host counseling sessions, addiction groups and veterans support group meetings, and a thrift store that would be both staffed and serviced by veterans living on-site, Hulse said.
“The veterans have an opportunity to volunteer for the store, to have employment, to get back to working on a schedule,” Hulse said. “They re-learn social skills. There’s a lot of life coaching that’s beneficial to rebuilding self-worth.”
And when Weber dies, his home on the property will also be donated to Just Believe and transformed into another sober living house.
Because the site is part of the Pinelands National Reserve, future development will likely be limited and subject to approval by the Pinelands Commission. Instead, Jeff’s Camp will lean into its surroundings — with trails named after Ocean County soldiers killed in action connecting the sober living homes with the treatment center.
“We want to keep it a refuge,” Hulse said. “We don’t want to get rid of the feeling that this is a camp.”
Mike Davis has spent the last decade covering New Jersey local news, marijuana legalization, transportation and basically whatever else is going on at any given moment. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or @byMikeDavis on Twitter.