MANCHESTER, NH – After months, a high-profile encampment underneath the Amoskeag Bridge has been mostly vacated.
Manchester has faced a challenge during the pandemic with the rise of more than 30 homeless camps spread out throughout the city, with estimates as high as 500 people at times in warmer weather living unsheltered. One of the most visible encampments has been one under the Amoskeag Bridge which, at one point, had more than 40 tents but which has recently dwindled to about 20-25 tents.
The city decided to take action following a fire Wednesday night at the encampment, when city firefighters responded to a fire with reported explosions. When they arrived a tent and other items including propane tanks were burning and exploding. Firefighters extinguished the fire and no injuries were reported. The person whose tent it was had fled the area.
According to Fire Chief Dan Goonan, that is what led to the posting Thursday informing those living there that, due to fire safety concerns all homeless people and structures needed to be removed from underneath the bridge. Notices were posted Thursday giving the occupants 24 hours – until 6 p.m. Friday – to remove themselves and all belongings. The city provided plastic totes for those who wanted to store items for 30 days but as of late Friday only one person had chosen to put things in storage bins.
At 5 p.m. a line of civilians, activists, and supporters showed up to help the homeless pack items and put them into their vehicles to transport them elsewhere. Fire, Police, EMS, and DPW remained on the scene supervising those moving items.
Occupants of the camp were advised that beds were available at the Families In Transition shelter if they wished to move inside, but many who remained relocated to other makeshift camps. Several vehicles were seen bringing items to an area known as “the firestone camp” off Elm Street.
A large encampment in 2020 became a controversial topic when the State of NH forced approx 40 people to move from the lawn outside the Hillsborough County Court
Currently, the Department of Public Works is on standby but has not disposed of any items left behind. Sources say Saturday morning all items left behind will be cleared from under the bridge and the encampment will be totally removed.
Three individuals living among the homeless were found dead in encampments in December. One of those people died in a fire and explosion off Willow Street in a homeless encampment.