Alternative homeless site to JFK no longer available after sudden purchase by neighboring property owner

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77 Pearl St. Photo/City of Manchester – Vision Appraisal

MANCHESTER, N.H. – An alternative temporary winter homeless shelter proposed in response to use of JFK Coliseum is no longer an option according to a joint statement from Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig, Manchester Fire Department Chief Dan Goonan and Families in Transition – New Horizons President Maria Devlin.

On Tuesday, the Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen allocated $1.1 million in CARES Act funds to set up and staff the facility. However, in the statement, the city was notified on Wednesday afternoon that the neighboring property owner that purchased the property wanted to ensure that no one living unsheltered would occupy the building.

“We are appalled this happened the day before Thanksgiving, and at a time when people in our community are suffering and are in desperate need of emergency shelter,” said the three parties in the statement. “As many people know, the need is great. As a result of COVID-19, there are fewer shelter beds and more people living unsheltered in our community.”

Craig, Goonan and Devlin also indicated that the search will continue to find an emergency winter shelter location.

No official property was referenced during Tuesday night’s meeting, but Alderman Joseph Kelly Levasseur (At-Large) mentioned 77 Pearl St., an office building just north of Bridge Street.

According to the Manchester Online Property Information portal, that property had been owned by Omni Group LLC and was purchased on Feb. 15, 2018 for $570,000.

UPDATE: 11/25/20 4:19 p.m. – Alderman Anthony Sapienza (Ward 5) says he has received positive feedback regarding placing a tent for the homeless population in the adjacent Pearl Street parking lot. It is unclear if a separate special meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen would be needed to re-specify a specific location for the funding approved on Tuesday.

UPDATE: 11/25/20 4:39 p.m. – The new property owner has been confirmed as Ben Gamache of Gamache Properties. Gamache has told Manchester Ink Link that he hopes to donate 10,000 sq ft. from another property he owns for use by the homeless. Discussion is underway for that proposal, but no further information is immediately available.

UPDATE: 11/25/20 6:08 p.m. – Following the news from earlier in the day, Lauren Smith, aide to Mayor Craig, stated that at this point, “all options remain on the table.”

UPDATE: 11/25/20 7:59 p.m. – Alderman Joseph Kelly Levasseur has released a statement in regard to 77 Pearl St.

This is what happens when you have amateurs running city hall like a political operation instead of professionals running it in a managerial and serious fashion. I cannot believe (Mayor Craig) publicly called out the owner for selling his property. (Craig) put it out there it was a done deal and it wasn’t. .

Note: The story has been corrected to reflect that the building the city planned to use for a temporary winter shelter was purchased by a neighboring property owner.