The Soapbox: Director Beloin’s hard work punished, not rewarded

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The SOAPBOX

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Stand up. Speak up. It’s your turn.


Following the departure of Schonna Green from Manchester in 2022, six people applied to take over what would become the position of Director of Homeless Initiatives and later the Director of Housing Stability. Manchester Fire Department Chief Ryan Cashin said Adrienne Beloin was “far and away the number-one pick.”

Prior to serving the city of Manchester, Beloin had spent two decades in social work in Boston, which culminated with being appointed Director of St. Francis House, a homeless shelter in the city.

Beloin’s hiring came after Green’s resignation in September 2022, which Alderman Pat Long lamented as a “major loss” for the city. Green’s position, unique at the time, had not been given sufficient support from the city and had instead been expected to manage the problems of the city’s homeless population by herself.

I had the chance to sit down and talk with Beloin after her hire. She struck me as an intelligent, driven, capable woman who was perfectly suited for the job which she was hired to do. We met at the Bookery in Manchester, because she didn’t have an office at the time.

Inexplicably, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen in the end found itself in a position to pigeonhole Director Beloin into a small office at the Beech Street shelter for reasons unspecified. In a radio interview on April 4th,  Beloin confessed that she had never been given a proper office in the many months she had been working with Manchester, from November 2022 to April 2024. She had to work with “stacks of papers on the floor” because she didn’t have a desk. By then, she was a city department head. She confessed that Mayor Ruais had told her she would be given a place “somewhere in the City Hall basement.”

Beloin’s first test as the city’s homelessness guru came in January 2023 when a persistent encampment sprung up on the sidewalk around the New Horizons shelter at 199 Manchester Street. At the time, various encampments had been swept, displacing the city’s homeless population and leaving them nowhere else to go. The New Horizons shelter was at capacity every night with cold temperatures seeping through the city.

Business owners came to City Hall to testify about human waste being left near their property (the city has few public bathrooms available to its homeless population), as well as hypodermic needles being found on the ground. Police Chief Allen Alderberg said the city would not be able to arrest its way out of the problem, to which At-Large Alderman Joe Kelly Levasseur responded. “You sit there and say you’re not going to move (the homeless), I’ll move them!”

Beloin proved instrumental in finding a solution to the sidewalk encampment: the Beech Street shelter was opened the following month. The YWCA also opened a 16-bed women’s shelter, but unable to find adequate funding for 2024 they had to close. Manchester had gone from having a single overflowing shelter to having three.

Following the opening of the Beech Street shelter, Beloin was assigned her own department in the city: Housing Stability.  Although the shelter was originally planned to be temporary, it has since continued to operate even as demand for houseless services increase.

Director Beloin then offered a presentation to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen with initiatives and goals regarding the city’s homeless population. She claimed New Hamsphire, short on housing, would have to create 60,000 new units by 2030.

“I want to be most effective I can be in the goals that I’ve put forward and in order to be the most effective I need access to the board and the mayor and to be at the top of discussions with other department heads,” Beloin said.

The nine-page memorandum produced for the purpose of her August 2023 presentation includes plans to “reduce homelessness and increase housing stability” by working with city and state leadership.

In her April 4th radio interview, the details of the city’s collaboration with her became apparent. She said, “The entire time, I’ve not had a space to have my work to be conducted in. I have been squatting in a very small windowless office in the welfare department since I arrived at the city. […] I don’t think I would put any of my staff, no matter what their title, in a closet without a window.”

Despite being a department head, Beloin was only given a single staff member: an administrative assistant with whom she shared office space. Members of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen expressed surprise at Jake King, the Beech Street shelter director, having an office in that space – where the Board wished for Beloin to move.

King was in the news at least once since being appointed to his position. A Google search for “Beech Street Shelter Director” would have revealed his name, had any member of the Board cared to look. Their surprise at his existence and his job title reveals a lack of disinterest in the city’s own shelter, and its homeless population in general.

The reasoning behind the suggested move of Beloin’s office from one closet to another was a perceived need for more oversight. This, according to Beloin, was not borne out by the evidence.

“The mayor has never had a discussion with me about there being a lack of oversight at the shelter,” Beloin said in her interview. “They’re doing something to downgrade the focus of the Housing Stability work because they don’t want to pay for housing. They don’t want to pay for the initiatives it will take to reduce homelessness in Manchester. They want to sweep it all under the rug. They want to minimize things and say my responsibility is the shelter. They know that it’s much more than that.”

“I am at the mercy of the Board,” Beloin went on. “But that does not mean they should disrespect city employees that have jobs to do and are qualified in ways they are not to do those jobs. Those nine people who voted (to move Beloin’s office), we can continue to expect them to vote in ways that will not improve homelessness in the city.”

When discussing collaborative efforts with members of the Board, she indicated that many of the members never spoke to her “off a microphone,” including Chairman Joe Kelly Levasseur. She also indicated in her interview that she believes they were not happy with her approach and strategy, yet never offered feedback of their own as to what they wanted to see happen. Instead, those members of the Board did their best to ignore her, sometimes forgetting what they themselves had agreed to.

Beloin’s comments on Drew Cline’s radio show on 99.9 FM earned her a rebuke from the Board and Mayor Ruais, which placed her on administrative leave. She asked for a public hearing to discuss her potential firing at a scheduled termination hearing, after which citizens of Manchester wrote in support of her on this website. The meeting was scheduled to go forward on April 11th, at 4:30 PM- until it wasn’t.

A resignation settlement was reached before the hearing could come to pass. Beloin’s resignation could mean the dissolution of her department, as well as the dismissal of her administrative assistant.

Whatever comes next for Beloin, one thing is certain: a new closet-sized office space has opened up at the Carol Rines Center on Elm Street.


Beg to differ? Agree to disagree? Leave your feedback in the comments section below this post using our DISQUS app. Got issues of your own? Get up on The Soapbox. Thoughtful prose on topics of general interest are welcome. Send submissions to publisher@manchesterinklink.com, subject line: The Soapbox.


 

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About this Author

Winter Trabex

Winter Trabex is a freelance writer from Manchester and regular contributor to Community Voices.