‘There is safe shelter available for all in Manchester’: City posts vacate notice at riverside encampment

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About a half-dozen tents line the boat launch behind the Northeast Delta Dental Stadium on Wednesday. The encampment is home to about a dozen people who they said have until Monday to pack up and go. Photo/Pat Grossmith

MANCHESTER, NH – The city is planning on dismantling yet another homeless encampment, this time one set up near the boat launch behind Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, home to the Fisher Cats.

The city posted notices on Monday informing those camping near the Merrimack River that they have until Monday, May 10, to pack up and leave.  The Fisher Cats opener is Tuesday, May 11, the following day.

It will be the fourth time that the city or state has dismantled a homeless encampment in Manchester since November.  The first was one near the Amoskeag Bridge on Canal Street and occurred after an explosion.  The second was outside the Hillsborough County Superior Court Northern District on Chestnut Street, when the state dismantled the camp of about 100 people after they pitched their tents on state property abutting the courthouse.

In mid-April, homeless people were ousted from a camp set up behind Firestone on Elm Street. The city said the owners requested the homeless be removed from the private property. About 10 officers were on hand that day to ensure that happened.

Kelly McAndrew was among those dislodged from the Amoskeag camp who then made her home at the Firestone camp.  Reached by telephone on Wednesday, she said she is now “inside” and taking online classes to be a recovery coach.  She said she couldn’t keep getting bounced from one encampment to another.

A notice posted May 3 notifying that the encampment near the boat ramp near Fisher Cats statium must be vacated. Photo/Pat Grossmith

But, she said she cannot forget her Firestone family, who were in a safe environment until they were ousted.  Now they are being pushed on again, this time from the banks of the Merrimack River.

According to her posting on Facebook from Tuesday, the toll on those former Firestone residents is a heavy one: one person has died; two are hospitalized; five or six have relapsed; two are missing, and she personally hasn’t seen her physician in weeks.

Calling it her “Firestone camp family,” McAndrew said two people who were in rehab when the camp was dismantled, came back to find their belongings gone and no place to go.

“Guess what?  Junk box again,” she wrote. “Both of them and they both worked so f****** hard to come back to f*** you go to the street.

“So we went from perfectly peaceful happy protected camp with each other To this. Thank you so much for your help!”

In a telephone call, McAndrew said she has moved on but she is not leaving her Firestone family behind because what is happening isn’t right.

She said she called the Mayor’s office and asked why this was happening.  She said she was told it was an emergency and the area of the boat launch had to be cleared in the event boats need to be launched for a rescue.

“There’s nothing down there right now to stop an emergency vehicle from being launched,” she said.

She said when the people moved out of the Amoskeag camp, no one was lost because they went to Firestone where they were safe and where outreach workers saw them on a routine basis, providing services they needed.

Mary Chevalier of 1269 Cafe on Union Street said the mayor asked if they could help shelter some of the people expected to be displaced. She said this time the camp is small – about a dozen people – and her facility will be able to accommodate eight men. Photo/Pat Grossmith

Now, she said, “people are relapsing, people need their medication.  It’s insane.  When they sweep us, we die.  When they sweep us, they take us back ten steps.”

The city is working with both FIT/New Horizons and 1269 Café to find shelter for those being displaced.

Kyle Chumas, director of marketing and communications for FIT/New Horizons, said there are about a dozen beds available, a mix for men and women.

Mary Chevalier of 1269 Café said she believes there are about a dozen people who will be affected this time.

The city approved her facility for 32 beds but the former school has not yet been renovated to provide them.  Instead, the basement cafeteria area at night is converted to provide sleeping accommodations for men only.  She said they will be able to provide beds for eight men displaced in Monday’s sweep.

Brandon Lemay of Rights and Democracy said it is estimated between 200 to 400 people are living outside in the city.  He said dismantling homeless camps is not something just happening in Manchester, it is happening across the country.  

And every time it happens, he said, someone goes off “and dies in the woods.”

With each dismantlement, he said, it just makes it harder to get needed resources to those displaced and it breaks the trust outreach workers have built up with those individuals. 

Chevalier said this year among the homeless community, eight people have died, one from Covid, two from overdoses and the remaining ones from other causes.