Homeless congregate on Elm Street, Manchester Police hands tied

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OPINION

THE SOAPBOX



Just got settled into my desk. My trip today consisted of driving over one of Manchester’s worst roads; Bodwell, to drop off my son at daycare. Then I drove back to my home, picked up my computer and papers, drove down my street, which is in a state of disrepair itself, on to the traffic black hole known as South Willow.

Thinking positively, South Willow is manageable when I travel mid-morning, but my street is always bad. I like to consider the year-round frost heaves as speed bumps keeping my family safe.

Bodwell Street is approaching third-world status. To save my 2003 Volvo, I consistently cross the median and swerve to avoid patches of rubble and debris. When there is oncoming traffic, I pray. I found that if I speed slightly, I can almost hover over the bulk of the shattered pavement.

Days before Thanksgiving, I popped my tire on that route. I fear what will happen when the winter plows make contact. Hopefully, the snow will fill in the cracks.

To continue with my commute, I have a small office on Elm Street. I drive down South Willow to Pine Street, through the thin industrial belt, past the corner stores, over the patches of half-repaired roads, past the groups of homeless and unemployed that congregate near the library and park to smoke cigarettes and buy their drugs. I nod in respect of a police car making their rounds.

Eventually, I land in free parking, several blocks from my office. Even though it’s cold, I love this part of my day. I put on my headphones and walk past the beautiful churches, bright sky, schools and other landmarks that are the foundation of our city.

Even in daylight, I still look around corners and turn around periodically. You can’t get caught slipping. I continue down the street until I reach Elm, arm entwined in my laptop bag strap, gripping the handle as to prevent someone relieving me of working tools. At night, my other hand grips keys as to make a spiked knuckle.

As I round the corner, I have to step over the glob of puke remnants that are frozen to the ground. I appreciate that after a couple days, someone attempted to clean it up. I think salt will finish the job.

They’re still there, and their compound is growing. For the last several weeks, two homeless individuals have begun camping outside my office. After a couple days, I spoke with them, feeling sorry.

Homeless camp on Elm Street, strategically located in a place where, legally, they can stay indefinitely. Photo/Robert Tanguay

When asked why she was there the girl (who can be seen under blanket doing drugs, not hiding in shame) says she gets abused at shelters. The guy says that he is selling books, and that he chose to squat at the shop entrance next to my office because it’s vacant.

I felt bad for them and said I might bring books for them to sell. I also asked if they would hand out fliers for me for money, and they said yes and have done work like that in the past. I told them I would have to do some research and get back to them.

After several days of thought, I worried that they or their associates might find out where I live, and so on. Growing up poor, I’ve spent my entire life avoiding that predicament. Part of that is not associating with heavy drug users.

I talked to local business people to find out that you have to have a license to post a sign in Manchester. Several stories were shared by business owners of signs they posted to promote their services only to have the City of Manchester call the next day requesting money.

I asked my landlord what could be done about this, and they said they were trying to resolve it, however, they have learned that the cops hands were tied.  Further, the City of Manchester is worried about getting sued by the ACLU, and there was a new law stating that persons with no permanent address could not be required to pay bail.

So here’s my problem: I pay rent to have a place to work in our beautiful downtown. That rent pays property taxes. My landlord has invested and risked a tremendous amount of money to renovate and operate my location. I pay property taxes and vehicle registration. The city and state fund homeless shelters to keep people off the streets, and jails and prisons for the rest.

Not only do I pay U.S. dollars to operate in downtown Manchester, but I have to deal with all the inconveniences that go with working in downtown. If I get caught breaking the law, I have to pay fines, tickets, or go to jail.

Here we have people blatantly violating the law, doing drugs, posting signs, selling books, loitering and blocking traffic on a walkway, 24 hours a day, and they think it’s funny.

Perhaps it is, I would be laughing as well, being the rabble rouser I am at sticking it to authority, but I am wiser than that.

Our real problem is that the law in its administration only applies to those with money. And the more money you have, the more access you have to legal remedy.

Since the homeless have no money or assets, they cannot easily be coerced into obeying laws. As I’ve written about before, most punishments, except for serious crimes like murder and violence, are monetary. You can buy your driver’s license back by paying fines and special insurances, completing programs with large fees and little results, hiring a lawyer and so on.

As for the ACLU and Legal Assistance Programs, I agree with some of their work, however, it is quite apparent that they have found a profit center – suing municipalities, including Manchester.

Personally, I’ve reached out to legal assistance programs to no avail. They aren’t trying to change the world, they are looking for clear-cut cases that they can generate fees from by fronting their services. They can only do that when there are large sums of money to be made, and when the opposition getting that money is weaker than themselves.

They often don’t sue states which are defended by the Attorney General, so they go after small cities and towns.

Where were they when I sued the State of New Hampshire for my driver’s license? Where are they with my Amazon suit?

When Verizon Stole my 7 Year Old Website, and took your Net Neutrality, I reached out to many groups, including a Net Neutrality Group in Boston, multiple times, with no response, by phone and email. They just wanted me to donate money.

Large, out of state, out of town corporations are destroying our rights and excavating money from our local economies. They are doing this by changing laws, starting and funding “non-profits,” paying top employees of those organizations above market rates. They are employing local lawyers so they are “adverse,” or barred from taking cases against them.

I am not a lawyer and am not offering legal advice. I don’t want to be, even after being told by judges where I used to live in California that I’d make a great one. I don’t want to go a quarter-million dollars in debt and be forced to serve the interests of the people that are causing most of the issues society faces. I don’t want to externalize losses and liabilities to small businesses and working people.

Now, I don’t want to be the next Michael Gill and get sued for slander. I just want people to start thinking about the way this world operates and who it benefits. You don’t have to donate your money to a non-profit that pays its founder a million dollars a year and returns little results.

Shouldn’t the underdog get equal opportunity and protection? If someone takes a thousand dollars and turns it into ten thousand, and another takes a million dollars and turns it into 1.3 million, who did a better job?

What about when they take a billion dollars and turn it into 36 million? Isn’t Eddie Lampert still the Chairman of Sears? How long was it until Jeff Bezos became profitable with Amazon?

Many inequities in this world, and they seem to all becoming more apparent.

Now, back to discussing our homeless friends. They are still there, urinating in the entrance to my office building at night, staining the sidewalk during the day.

I’m still here. Will they last longer than me on Elm Street?


Robert Tanguay is a Manchester resident and entrepreneur. Founder of EmissionsTax and author of “Incentives and the Environment”, he earns a living helping small businesses with his latest venture, New England Marketing & Efficiency. Reach him on Twitter @RobertTanguay