O P I N I O N
It’s getting cold…especially for the homeless
I was checking out the weather forecast the other day and was thinking how just a few weeks ago it was hot and how now we are entering the cooler – and soon the downright cold – time of year (and as most of the readers know from experience…New Hampshire can get cold). This was further reinforced during discussions with some unsheltered folk in Victory Park. These things got me thinking about how we haven’t seen much progress in our city towards helping end homelessness. Those currently without shelter will likely be living outside when we are in the colder months.
So-called solutions aren’t working
We have all heard about the city’s “efforts” of reducing the homeless population; departments have been created and people have been hired with the sole purpose of reducing Manchester’s homeless population, yet more unhoused individuals seem to be sleeping on our streets. Could it be because our elected leaders do not reach out to non-governmental organizations for help? Do they only reach out to selected organizations…maybe those that have an “in”?
I personally think that part of the problem is that some elected officials are more concerned about working with certain “acceptable” groups than they are about coming up with actual solutions (aka work with groups that their political position allows). Or they want to look good by being the “leader” who “solved” the problem. Neither scenario helps us move toward solutions.
Ideas based on the success of others
As I wrote in a previous article, cities like Boston and Lowell, Mass., have instituted programs and utilized resources to help reduce homelessness. So why aren’t we looking at those programs at least as a starting point?
While we probably won’t – and shouldn’t – do exactly what places like Boston and Lowell did, we can learn from them. We could then use the knowledge and work with local stakeholders to develop initiatives that are a fit for Manchester. Solutions that may actually work if adapted correctly.
Are new faces at City Hall the answer?
As you know, on November 7, we will be heading to the polls to elect city officials, including a new mayor since we have an open seat with Mayor Craig running for governor. So will a new mayor and possibly some new aldermen be able to help solve the homeless issue in our city? Or will we just get more of the same? (In my opinion it depends who is elected, although this article is not an endorsement of either Jay Ruais or Kevin Cavanaugh).
Will building regulations be relaxed to allow for developers to build more truly affordable housing, (in other words, will the money grabbing cease in order to benefit the people)? Will more developers be approached about building truly affordable housing? Will tiny homes be allowed in Manchester? Will the new mayor actually listen to and work with people to develop solutions – no matter their political persuasion?
Solutions require collaboration, even with those who may disagree with you. Having a bunch of people that care more about partisanship or being agreeable to leadership is not the way forward…true collaboration is.
While we wait, resources are available
The good news is that there are resources available for our unsheltered neighbors while a solution is developed. While the need is pacing ahead of the available resources, there are currently some options.
- The most known emergency shelter is the New Horizons Adult emergency shelter. This shelter is owned and operated by Families in Transition (FIT). This is a low-barrier congregate living shelter open to those 18 and over. Aside from the sleeping area, services for the homeless are available at New Horizons, including healthcare provided by Catholic Medical Center’s Healthcare for the Homeless program.
- FIT also operates an Emergency Family Shelter that offers space for families with children as well as case management services.
- For young people ages 18 to 24, Waypoint has opened an overnight low-barrier emergency shelter with a variety of amenities and 24/7 access to various services.
- The Twelve, (formerly Cafe’ 1269), serves the homeless and poor of our city by providing a variety of services from practical needs to a structured residential model. While not an emergency shelter, the Twelve is a great resource for those struggling with homelessness as well as addiction.
- A new homeless engagement center was opened at the site of a city-run emergency shelter last Wednesday. The engagement center offers a variety of services such as healthcare, help finding an apartment, and help finding a job. The center is open 9 AM to 5 PM while the emergency shelter at the same location is closed.
While I have not yet seen a list of warming stations for the upcoming cold weather months, I know that in the past the Twelve, in partnership with Hope for NH Recovery, have opened one at the Twelve facility. In addition, Families in Transition has offered a place to stay warm as have various other organizations. For more information about programs and resources available to the homeless, including warming stations, dial 211 or access them on the web.
Homelessness is a tough issue
Homelessness is not an easy-to-solve issue, partly because there are so many reasons for it, including addiction, which our city is also struggling with, as well as mental health conditions. No matter where we align politically, we can all agree that homeless individuals are human beings and need solutions…we all need solutions.
The vast majority of homeless do not wake up one morning and decide that living on the streets is a suitable way to live. Some people made bad life decisions, some experienced negative circumstances, while some suffer from addiction or mental health conditions. If we think about it, especially because of the rising costs of housing…and most everything, many people are but a few months (or less) from being homeless…the “housing insecure.”
Organizations need our help
Many of the organizations that help the homeless need volunteers; not only to directly work with homeless folk, but to do things such as work in the buildings doing things like painting and light construction, preparing meals, housekeeping, security, and more. So if you feel so compelled, contact one of the organizations listed in this article or research and find one where you can help.
As always, feel free to email me at email@example.com with any comments.