MANCHESTER, NH – Blistering cold winds blew through the homeless camp outside the Hillsborough County Courthouse at 300 Chestnut Street Wednesday morning. The temperature had dropped to 25 degrees overnight and still had not risen above freezing when the sun had risen. The situation was predicted to get worse- according to weather.com, the low on Wednesday night, November 18th, was supposed to be 17 degrees.
Nevertheless, people at the camp remained where they were. A few confessed that they had tried their luck going into the New Horizons shelter, only to be turned away. Others were disconsolate, preferring to keep their own company.
Since the state’s eviction order came down for everyone to be moved out of the area on Nov. 16, state police have not forcibly removed anyone. Instead, volunteers have added two tables with food, coffee, and hand warmers. Blankets are more in evidence now than previously. Groups of protestors take turns holding signs with messages such as, “Housing is a Human Right.”
New Hampshire’s DHHS and the state Attorney General’s Office issued a joint statement on the 17th, proclaiming the following:
“Cities and towns are responsible under New Hampshire law, specifically RSA 165, to provide welfare to residents who need assistance. At this time, the City of Manchester is not offering any welfare services to the individuals at the courthouse encampment.
Despite this, the State has been in constant contact with city leaders regarding this homeless camp and the homelessness issue more broadly. Any claim that the State has not communicated to city officials regarding this encampment is patently false.”
Shortly thereafter, the mayor’s office issued a statement regarding the homeless camp and homelessness in general.
“Outreach to unsheltered individuals has been ongoing and available in all encampments across our City, including the state-owned property at the Courthouse, and will continue. We are grateful to our partners and we are committed to the safety of the public, of the City and its employees, of our partners, and of the occupants at these locations.
“The City is not partnering with the State in any unconstitutional efforts. Our focus is, and always has been, on helping individuals in need. We are open to and continue to provide services to any person who is homeless.”
According to one person in the camp, outreach from the state level has been non-existent. The strongest state presence she has seen are police officers searching for wanted persons, which also occurs at shelters across the city.
Previously this year, Kelly McAndrew lived in an encampment she called “Camp Live Free.” Since then, despite finding a place to live, she has come by to show her support in whatever way she can. The state, she claims, has not been doing the same.
“Supposedly the governor has formed a task force to help us homeless people, to talk to us and help put us into housing,” McAndrew said. “Not one of us has seen anyone from the state come down to talk to us or offer any type of help. FIT and New Horizons and Manchester Mental Health has come by. Chief Goonan comes by daily. Other than that, nobody from the state has offered any help to any of us.”
Unconfirmed reports claim the state has removed black benches from the property, upon which people used to sleep.
Yesterday, the Union Leader reported the state is claiming forcible evictions will go ahead. Though, having missed their Nov. 16 deadline, neither volunteers, city officials, nor homeless people are sure if or when this will occur.