Manchester homeless figures level off in December and January

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Tents pitched at what’s known as the Firestone encampment. Photo/Jeffrey Hastings

MANCHESTER, NH – The number of known unsheltered homeless individuals in Manchester did not grow for the first time since July, and the count of actively homeless people located by outreach workers in the past 30 days has gone down from 120 by the end of December to 93 by the end of January.

According to monthly reports compiled by the Manchester Homeless Outreach Collaboration teams, the total census was 508 as of Jan. 31. The number decreased by two since the previous month due to data cleanup efforts that eliminated duplication and errors.

That figure rose since the outreach teams first began collecting census data last summer from 173 on July 1 to 263 by July 22 to 484 in November.

December’s report counted 510.

A message spray-painted at the campsite underneath the Amoskeag Bridge which has since been dismantled by the city. Photo/Jeffrey Hastings

The total census includes actively homeless, folks outreach teams have been unable to locate in over 30 days and inactive individuals (no contact by outreach teams in over 90 days). So the total census is not necessarily an indicator of all the homeless people present in Manchester at any one time.

Some of those individuals may have transitioned to a shelter, housing or moved out of town.

In fact, the number of actively homeless individuals counted by the outreach team went down from 120 in December to 93 in January. Meanwhile, the number of inactive homeless went up from 249 to 278.

Patricia Carty, the Chief Operating Officer of the Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester, said there is a seasonal component to the numbers shifting in the colder months, as some people find places to stay or elect to sleep in shelters.

“However, we know we are seeing an increase in the number of unsheltered people this winter compared to previous years,” Carty said.

Bags of unclaimed and/or abandoned items left behind at the Amoskeag Bridge encampment, which was disposed of by the city the day after the camps were dismantled. Photo/Jeffrey Hastings

A statewide state of homelessness report issued last month echoes this overall trend of rising homelessness, and the number of shelter beds in use is climbing to new highs. Carty said the number of shelter beds used in Manchester Monday reached 179.

“Which I believe is the highest we’ve seen so far this year,” Carty said.

In January, shelter use averaged 138 guests per night.

The apparent decrease in active homeless individuals is likely the result of outreach teams being unable to make contact with folks who are still technically homeless, either because they found temporary shelter or will not leave their tents when outreach teams arrive, according to Megan Spencer, a program manager for Network4Health who compiles the monthly outreach team reports.

Total contacts by outreach workers have steadily dropped each month since it reached a peak of 378 in October. In January, they were down to 145.

“The outreach team members indicated that as spring comes around, they will typically see an increase of people return to unsheltered living,” Spencer said.

The number of active encampments in the city stayed roughly the same; dropping from 28 to 27. The camp count reached a height of 35 in the summer, and outreach workers have so far tallied an overall total of 58 discrete encampments as locations fluctuated significantly over the past year.