MANCHESTER, N.H. – With a new emergency warming shelter about to open its doors on Beech Street, the Manchester Planning Board received an update from city leaders on Thursday night, providing an opportunity for the board and local residents to ask questions about its operations.
According to Manchester Fire Department Chief Ryan Cashin, the facility at 39 Beech Street, along with the Tirrell House, will assume the role of emergency warming center for the next several months, taking the place of the Cashin Senior Center. The Cashin Senior Center was opened as an emergency warming center following safety concerns regarding tents outside of the Families in Transition homeless shelter on Manchester Street.
John Gimas, owner of the building that houses the Domino’s Pizza across the street from the Beech Street shelter, said he acknowledged that the weather is cold and homeless people need a place to go. However, his primary concern revolved around homeless individuals that have been scouring the area in recent weeks digging through nearby dumpsters and causing security concerns.
Gimas voiced fears regarding what individuals in the shelter might do when outside the shelter.
“When 30 or 40 of them walk out, where are they going to go?” he said.
Joanna Martel also voiced concerns.
Martel, whose family owns the adjacent 340 Shasta St. apartment building, said she lost a prospective tenant when they learned that a temporary warming shelter was being opened next door. This frustration was exacerbated by the fact that she just spent $30,000 on renovations, her property taxes on the building went up and all income from the building goes to pay for her father’s $11,000 a month dementia care.
In recent weeks, she told the board that she has seen naked individuals run up and down the street and was accosted by homeless individuals when taking out the garbage. She asked if individuals would be vetted before being allowed into the building and if transit will be provided for those staying at the shelter.
Manchester Planning and Community Development Director Jeffrey Belanger said that the city will do everything it can to address the concerns of residents nearby and that the site will be staffed 24/7. He also apologized for the later notices that went out to abutters, although under state law, notice is notice required when a building is being purposed for governmental use.
“We have no interest in being a bad neighbor,” he said.
Manchester Director of Homeless Initiatives Adriane Beloin, who has operated similar shelters in Boston, said that entry to the building will be closed at 9 p.m. and those who come early will get first choice of beds.
Cashin, who noted that he also lives nearby, added that U-Hauls will be on site to help with storage needs for the temporary residents.
“We will work hard to make sure this is nothing but a success, and we will not rest until it is,” said Cashin.
Cashin also confirmed to the board that there are no plans to extend operation of the shelter past April 30.
Manchester Police Chief Allen Aldenberg added additional patrols will be dispatched to the area and the department’s homeless outreach officer will spend the majority of his time there for the near future, although he added that under the department’s collective bargaining agreement with the Manchester Police Patrolman’s Association, he could not order patrol officers to remain at the shelter specifically for the sake of security.
Ward 3 Alderman Pat Long also asked if bike racks could be added given that many of the individuals that will be using the shelters have bikes, with Belanger saying that could be arranged.
Manchester Planning Board Chairman Bryce Kaw-uh thanked the city officials for their time and notified Martel that requests for reassessment and abatement of property taxes can be applied for with the city given extenuating circumstances.