MANCHESTER, N.H. – Fresh off the creation of the city’s new Department of Housing Stability, now Manchester Department of Housing Stability Director Adrienne Beloin sat down on Wednesday with members of the public as well as Manchester Police officers and other city officials to discuss how police are interacting with the city’s homeless population.
The topic headlined April’s Manchester Police Department Community Advisory Board, a monthly roundtable between police officers and the community over ongoing issues facing the city.
While all city departments have dealt with the issue of homelessness, Manchester Police Lieutenant Emmett Macken told the assembled group that Manchester’s police officers have become one of the key supports to the city’s homeless population.
Macken says that if anything, the relationship between the city’s police and homeless is more cordial than anyone would expect, sharing an anecdote about one situation where he arrested a homeless man one day only to have that man ask him for a job reference the next day, which he gladly gave.
“Manchester’s homeless population doesn’t try to fight us, we try to help. While we tell them there’s nothing we can do if they commit crimes, we generally try to help them,” he said. “Although there may be situations where we have to bring in a person on a warrant or write a ticket, it’s nothing personal and usually we’ll see those people back talking with us the next day.”
Much of the meeting was directed toward Manchester’s Director of Overdose Prevention, Andrew Warner, who joined the city’s Health Department late last year.
Warner’s primary role is reacting to spikes in substance overdoses occurring within the city, often among the city’s homeless population. However, he also seeks to take proactive steps in preventing those spikes before they happen, and in both reacting and preventing the spikes, he uses data provided by Manchester Police Lieutenant Matthew Barter.
Warner also obtains data for this task from other sources, such as American Medical Rescue (AMR), the city’s ambulance service. However, Barter noted that the data available from AMR is often limited due to privacy concerns while the police are able to share most items as long as it is not connected to an active investigation.
The meeting also touched upon youth outreach efforts, such as a replacement for the old D.A.R.E. program known as “LEAD” as well as the need for more collaboration and communication with the public regarding how to address the problem of homelessness.
Warner stressed the need for creation of more “nets” working in tandem with each other and the city to catch potential substance overdose spikes before they happen and Beloin discussed the need to increase feedback between the city, non-profit organizations and private citizens regarding how the city’s homeless population can be helped. Still, she says she has been impressed at the city’s desire to address the issue in her few months on the job.
“Manchester has a lot of compassion,” she said.