Aldermen get update on state of the city’s homeless population

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Department of Housing Stability Director Adrienne Beloin on Mar. 19, 2024. Photo/Andrew Sylvia

MANCHESTER, NH – Last week, Manchester Department of Housing Stability Director Adrienne Beloin provided an update to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen on the city’s efforts to address homelessness.

In Beloin’s presentation, which is available as a power point on the city’s website as well as in a video format, she celebrated progress made over the past year such as new programs at the Beech Street shelter, but also expressed the need for more tangible efforts to prevent homelessness, such as additional rapid rehousing to build upon successes, such as the seven individuals that were helped with permanent housing placement between Jan. 2023 to Feb. 2024

Ward 12 Alderwoman Kelly Thomas expressed concern with giving rapid rehousing assistance to all individuals, stating that some people may need additional mental health support before being put back into an independent living situation. Beloin agreed and noted that some individuals receive supportive congregate housing accommodations while others are sent to detox treatment facilities when insurance allows.

Thomas and others also questioned the city’s “low barrier” approach toward admittance in the Beech Street Shelter, saying more should be done to encourage homeless people toward self-developmental efforts. Beloin replied that the low barriers to entry are designed to get people off the streets and into a comfortable setting as studies have shown that more homeless individuals are likely to improve their lives if they are given the ability and support to chart their own paths out of their situation. Beloin also noted that her department’s budget does not allow for the staffing numbers needed to provide several programs that would assist occupants of the shelter.

She also noted that while encampments in the city have decreased 70 percent over the past year, breaking up encampments have done little to change the number of homeless individuals identified in the city.

According to data within the presentation, 558 of the state’s estimated 1,605 homeless individuals identified as being within Manchester, with 416 within one of the city’s homeless shelters. This just addresses the adult homeless population, as 794 school-aged children were reported as homeless over the most recent school year.  However, these figures are expected to change as city departments continue outreach efforts with the city’s homeless population and the need to do more in tracking people living in vehicles.

Data in the presentation also indicated that 56 percent of occupants within the Beech Street Shelter are identified as having some kind of mental health issue and 82 percent are identified as disabled in some way.

Safety within the shelter was also a matter of concern, with Ward 10 Alderman Bill Barry stating that weapons should not be allowed on the premises. Beloin indicated that firearms are not allowed within the shelter and occupants are given storage areas for items not allowed within the building such as weapons and drugs, in order to prevent occupants from having to choose between their possessions and obtaining shelter. She also indicated that violence or harassing behaviors by occupants can result in the occupant’s ejection from the facility for the day, and that the shelter staff cooperates with Manchester Police in dealing with safety threats to its inhabitants.

Manchester Police Department Chief Allen Aldenberg stated that crimes in the area of the Beech Street Shelter had gone up in recent months, but there was no evidence of a correlation between the rise and activity at the shelter. He also recommended new camera equipment at the entrance and exit points to the shelter.

Near the end of the presentation, a woman in the audience, later identified as Griseliz Fernandez, was removed from the Aldermanic Chambers after repeated outbursts regarding a state law about homelessness. Last year Fernandez was cited by police and removed from City Hall Plaza after pitching a tent there.

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Griseliz Fernandez is escorted out of the March 18, 2024 BMA meeting. Photo/Andrew Sylvia


About this Author

Andrew Sylvia

Assistant EditorManchester Ink Link

Born and raised in the Granite State, Andrew Sylvia has written approximately 10,000 pieces over his career for outlets across Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. On top of that, he's a licensed notary and licensed to sell property, casualty and life insurance, he's been a USSF trained youth soccer and futsal referee for the past six years and he can name over 60 national flags in under 60 seconds according to that flag game app he has on his phone, which makes sense because he also has a bachelor's degree in geography (like Michael Jordan). He can also type over 100 words a minute on a good day.