Houseless community issues demands to City Hall, seeks better treatment following Douglas Street eviction notice

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“C4” helps clean up in The Bucket on Sunday. Photo/Andrew Sylvia

MANCHESTER, N.H. – Supporters of those living in an encampment at a location on the West Side known as “The Bucket” have submitted a list of demands to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen regarding the city’s impending evictions of those who have been living there [see below].

The land, located at 450 Douglas St., is owned by the Manchester Department of Parks and Recreation but has been home to approximately 20 houseless individuals, some for as long as four years. During that time, those on the property say they have built impromptu bridges, removed trash and even helped bring electricity to the lot.

On May 28, occupants of the land were given an eviction notice with an initial deadline of Friday, June 4. The deadline has been pushed to the morning of Monday, June 7.

Rights and Democracy Housing Organizer Brandon Lemay believes the deadline was pushed back due to supporters of the occupants, who have been helping those who want to leave as well as providing supplies for those who want to stay. He also believes the deadline may have been pushed back due to a lack of shelter space in the city.

“Around houselessness issues, we’re really trying to get the voices heard of those who are affected,” said Lemay. “There’s been absolutely no dialogue between those making decisions and those being affected by them.”

The list of demands has three key points. First, the supporters are asking to give the occupants time to vacate and find new homes or make sure the occupants have the right to challenge the eviction in court as tenants. Second, the supporters demand that the occupants have the right to legally exist in a home with their possessions even if it’s not at The Bucket or even in Manchester. And third, they seek better alternatives for the occupants than the Families in Transition/New Horizons shelter if there are no other alternatives than a shelter in the immediate future, citing policies inside the shelter that have required them to forfeit personal possessions and face separation from loved ones while facing an atmosphere of disrespect.

One of the occupants, who identified himself as “C4” says he moved to The Bucket after an ankle injury that forced him out of a job as a roofer. C4 was unable to find another job with comparable pay and eventually found his way to Douglas Street.

Although the Board of Mayor and Aldermen passed an ordinance earlier this year prohibiting camping on city park land, C4 believes that the occupants of The Bucket don’t meet the spirit of the ordinance.

“This is not us out here camping. Camping is a hobby, this our actual life,” he said.  “We hit a bad spot in our lives, but this is our home. “

Manchester Director of Homeless Initiatives Schonna Green on Thursday acknowledged that the encampment was slated to be swept due to increased safety issues and also noted the delay in evacuation until Monday.

“The city still needs a little bit more time,” Green said Thursday. “There have been emergencies down there with fires and things like that. New Horizons is going to be providing beds if need be.”

UPDATE – 6/7/21: Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig has issued the following statement regarding the situation at Douglas Street.

“For months, the City has been working with Families in Transition, the Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester, Healthcare for the Homeless, 1269 Café, and other community partners to provide outreach, services and shelter to individuals living unhoused in the city.

The City’s Director of Homelessness Initiatives is working with our faith-based community and local non-profits to increase access to safe emergency shelter, and there are currently 40 clean, safe, beds available at Families in Transition and 6 beds at 1269 Cafe for individuals living outside near 450 Douglas Street.

If needed, the City provides storage of personal property for houseless individuals.

We know that just increasing the number of shelter beds will not solve the statewide housing crisis. Emergency shelter is an entry point to permanent, affordable and supportive housing and the City has undertaken dozens of initiatives in increase access, including:

* Using federal funds to enable Families in Transition’s to open eleven permanent, supportive apartments prioritizing chronically homeless individuals
* Using federal funds to enable Waypoint to open three permanent apartments and 18-20 emergency shelter beds for young adults 18 to 24-year olds
* Deferring fees for the development of affordable housing units
* Making changes to our zoning laws to better accommodate mixed use housing development
* Establishing a Manchester Housing Commission to conduct a housing study and continue to make recommendations for additional City action

Manchester cannot solve this problem alone, and we look forward to the statewide plan to address homelessness, set to be released later this month.”

A copy of the Douglas Street eviction notice. Courtesy photo/Brandon Lemay