Letters: Problems with Victoria Sullivan’s Plan for Homelessness

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To the Editor:

Addressing the Substance Abuse Component

According to Mrs. Sullivan’s website, she plans to, “Build a coalition of nonprofits, faith-based groups, veterans organizations, and private organizations that are currently doing the work on our streets.” How is this different from what Joyce Craig is already doing? She made a coalition to gather together community entities – including faith-based groups and private companies – to bring them together to help solve homelessness.

While this idea sounds good on paper, this is what Mayor Joyce Craig is already doing. Organizations like Families in Transition and Waypoint are doing great work with the city to provide much-needed services for our most vulnerable populations.  

Lowering Housing Costs

According to Mrs. Sullivan, she plans to “lower housing costs,” but plans to do this by incentivizing homebuilders and buyers of multi-family homes, rather than addressing costs of rent, nor addressing wages, which people need in order to pay their rent.

She stated in a recent email:

  • “Incentivize home buyers to purchase and occupy multi-family homes.
  • Provide tax incentives for builders to build multi-family homes and apartment buildings.”

This would create tax-free or tax-reduced properties, which means less income for the city, which could mean the budget would need to override the tax cap.

Plus, our federal delegation through The American Rescue Plan Act provided NH with millions of dollars in incentives to address affordable housing already.

Maintaining Shelters/Building Transitional Housing + Improving Quality and Livability

Funny she brings this point up, because the man who donated office space to Sullivan’s 2019 campaign, Ben Gamache, bought the building that the Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved to be used as an emergency winter homeless shelter in the 11th hour. This made the BMA have to start from scratch, just because Gamache didn’t want a shelter next to his properties. 

Sullivan stated in a recent email that “we need to create a line of communication between the homeless citizens and City Hall so that issues may be addressed quickly.” However, the line of communication already exists. People know that they can attend the meetings, or go to City Hall directly with their issues. Again, Mayor Craig hired a Director of Homelessness Initiatives and created an affordable housing taskforce to work on this.

Support Law Enforcement Efforts

“Hold all citizens in Manchester to the same set of rules and standards of behavior. There can’t be a set of rules for the homeless vs. the housed. Current leadership binds the hands of our law enforcement officers to secure the public safety, especially in our downtown. Enforce laws already on the books regarding loitering, camping, and public trash disposal.”

Mrs. Sullivan wants to tackle homelessness from a criminal perspective, instead of a housing and mental health perspective. It’s not a crime to be homeless, arresting people does not solve homelessness; it would simply move them to the jails, which causes overcrowding and costs the city more money. 

What We Should Do Instead

  • We need to raise wages. If people cannot afford rent, they are likely to end up homeless. The average salary for a renter in this county is $48,498. To afford a typical two-bedroom apartment with utilities, that same renter would have to earn an additional $12,902 a year, or about $29/hr. A minimum wage of $7.25 is less than 1/4th the wage to afford rent. Also, one of the key drivers to homeless is medical costs, which is yet another reason to raise wages. People’s healthcare diagnoses are not a fault of their own. Healthcare is expensive.
  • We need Medicare for All, for reasons stated above.
  • It would be better if we increased access to mental health resources rather than having police arrest people for behaviors outside their control. This needs to be addressed at the state level and needs proper funding.
  • Affordable housing is complicated! We need more transitional housing, and rent needs to be reasonable. 

The best model that we have seen in this country is the Housing First model, which means that the first way to address homelessness is to house them. This gives them a physical address to use on job applications, personal dignity, access to bathrooms and showers, and a safe place to reside. They are more likely to be hired when they have supportive services. They often can’t get housing without having enough income: the main way to earn income is by working. If no one hires them, the homelessness cycle continues. The Housing First model would save the city money because homeless individuals are less likely to use other city resources, which becomes quite expensive over time. Saving money, while also getting individuals safe shelter, and ultimately getting them back on their feet is the best solution from all angles.

Screenshot 2019 11 02 at 7.12.25 AMCandace is a registered nurse and a mom of a teenager and an eight-year-old. She ran for State Representative in 2018 and 2020, as well as for School Board Ward 9 in 2019. She cares very much about making her community a safe and loving place to be.

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About this Author

Nathan Graziano

Nathan Graziano lives in Manchester with his wife and kids. He's the author of nine collections of fiction and poetry. His most recent book, Born on Good Friday was published by Roadside Press in 2023. He's a high school teacher and freelance writer, and in his free time, he writes bios about himself in the third person. For more information, visit his website: http://www.nathangraziano.com