MANCHESTER, NH – Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen (BMA) on Tuesday approved $729,637 in Community Improvement Program (CIP) funding to Waypoint to help establish a new $1.9 million Homeless Youth Services Center on Hanover Street across from Bronstein Park.
This funding, coming from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grants earmarked for issues that have been exacerbated by COVID-19 such as homelessness, had been tabled by the Aldermen in the hopes of obtaining more information about the project. The Aldermanic CIP Committee only tentatively recommended the funding request, also due to what they saw as a lack of information needed to make a final decision.
With additional details submitted by Waypoint (see below), Pat Long (Ward 3) requested that the BMA renew discussion regarding the proposal.
Waypoint Director of Homeless Youth and Youth Services Erin Kelly told the board that the new facility would help young adults aged 18-25 escape from a cycle of possible long-term housing insecurity they may face in later life if not corrected early. Kelly added that approximately 700 young adults in the city are currently facing housing insecurity, but faced generally different problems than their older counterparts. For one, many homeless young adults don’t camp at homeless camping sites but “couch surf” with friends or relatives or sleep inside places not meant for habitation such as vehicles until they have no other options. Also, she said that unlike the general homeless population in the city, the young adult homeless population is almost universally seeking help and feel ignored.
“I think it’s important to recognize that homeless young adults are the invisible part of our homeless community,” she said.
Given that the request could gradually reduce the city’s homeless population and this segment of the homeless population was almost entirely seeking help, Long felt that the decision was an easy one to make. However, some of his colleagues still were wary.
Bill Barry (Ward 10) and Dan O’Neil (At-Large) said they could only support the request after receiving confirmation that the services would be given to Manchester residents and not become a magnet for homeless young adults elsewhere in New Hampshire. O’Neil told Kelly that point was a source of concern from his constituents.
“When I say the people of Manchester have had it, they’ve had it with helping people from outside Manchester,” he said.
Kelly told the BMA that approximately 90 percent of Waypoint’s clients in Manchester are from Manchester and the previous residency status of young adults seeking assistance can be ascertained from school records and other methods obtained from referral agencies like Amoskeag Health.
Joseph Kelly Levasseur (At-Large) referenced this concern in a statement regarding the city’s Safe Stations program, saying that the program and advertisement of the program drew homeless individuals from elsewhere in the state. Long replied that according to former Manchester Fire Department Chief Dan Goonan, the number of people from out of town that used Safe Station services was in the single digits each year and that the program still provides a significant service for those seeking to battle drug addiction.
“Where else would someone go at three o’clock in the morning when they’re ready to make change?” said Long.
O’Neil was ultimately convinced only after the endorsement of Manchester Director of Homeless Initiatives Schonna Green, who noted that the key problem regarding homelessness in the city right now is the available inventory of beds and this project would help alleviate that problem.
The motion passed 11-2, with Levasseur and Sebastian Sharonov (Ward 6) opposed.
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