City denied $250K COVID-19 Justice Grant for homeless outreach

Mayor Craig and Chief Goonan have requested the state consider its denial of the grant.

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Fire Chief Dan Goonan and Emergency Director Chris Hickey making the rounds at the encampment underneath the bridge on Canal Street in June. Since then a collaborative outreach team has been making daily visits to more than 32 encampments around the city, gathering data and conducting censusus. Photo/Carol Robidoux

MANCHESTER, NH – An application made by the Manchester Fire Department to the state for a $250,000 Coronavirus Emergency Justice Grant was denied Wednesday, after the state Justice Department determined the city did not qualify because their use of the funds to continue outreach to the homeless was not an emergency.

The denial, received Oct. 21 from Tom Kaempfer, Administrator of the NH Department of Justice Grants Management Unit, explained that the overall purpose of the funding is for “emergent needs,” and cited that the grant activities as described by Fire Department Chief Dan Goonan were to start in March, so “it was felt that it didn’t qualify as an emergency right now.”

Goonan immediately responded to the decision, setting the record straight about the intention of the grant, and expressing his disappointment over being denied a grant that is described as a supplemental program for first-responders “to prevent, prepare for, and respond to
COVID-19.”

Goonan wrote:

“This application was to continue outreach efforts associated with the reduction of limited shelter beds in Manchester due to COVID.  These outreach efforts began months ago and this would have been a continuation of this program.  The homelessness issue in Manchester and the program we put together with Manchester Mental Health, Health Care for the Homeless, FIT New Horizons and Crisis Response Team, The Doorway and others was very much dependent on MFD’s outreach team to provide services. The issue of homelessness both statewide and in Manchester has only been exacerbated by Covid 19.  With evictions resuming this problem will only worsen.  While this issue of homelessness may not be viewed as a traditional emergency is a humanitarian crisis.  I believe the decision to deny this grant application warrants further discussion and I am requesting a time to meet.  We would be happy to arrange a meet and greet with our outreach team to discuss their efforts and a tour of the city to highlight the challenges we face on a daily basis.”

On Thursday, Mayor Joyce Craig and Goonan sent a two-page letter addressed to Gov. Chris Sununu and Attorney General Gordon MacDonald, asking for reconsideration on the decision, saying, “It is unsettling that the State of New Hampshire claims this does not qualify as an ’emergency.’ In response, we are asking you to please reconsider your decision.”

The letter further calls out Sununu for what the city characterizes as a false claim he made to reporters Wednesday, that the city of Manchester has received “literally over $100 million of new money and support,” when asked about the issue of homelessness, in particular, a large encampment on state-owned property surrounding the county courthouse. The city has no jurisdiction to take action to remove the campers.

Craig says funding Sununu points to has been allocated to organizations and non-profits that operate independently, and also includes funding that is provided to all New Hampshire cities and states, for infrastructure, education and other aspects of governance. Meanwhile, Manchester carries the burden of the state’s homeless population and, despite repeated requests for direct aid to the city of Manchester, the state has been unresponsive to the unique situation Manchester is in. More than 73 percent of those currently living in encampments around the city self-report as being non-city residents, according to the September census.

“It’s important to clarify zero dollars of the supposed $100 million have gone to increase shelter capacity, supportive housing, transitional housing and affordable housing. In fact, the only funds the City of Manchester has received regarding homelessness was to support police presence and cleaning facilities for unsheltered individuals at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, equating to .004% of the alleged $100 million,” wrote Craig and Goonan.

Craig points out that homelessness is a statewide issue, and notes that “the last time the State completed a statewide plan to address homelessness was in 2006. Local communities have stepped up and developed innovative solutions to statewide issues on their own.”

The full text of the letter is below.