MANCHESTER, NH – Since Monday, nearly 100 community members have gathered all day and night at 300 Chestnut Street in Manchester, NH, to stand in solidarity with, protect the rights of, and coordinate community support for the houseless community living at the encampment near the Superior Court building.
As a community, we have prevented the illegal eviction of the residents of the encampment for four days, and exposed the state’s complete failure to adequately address homelessness in NH. We are here because everyone deserves a warm place to sleep, and accessible assistance from the state to meet their needs.
Many residents of the camp have communicated that no help from the state has been offered to them, or that the help offered was inaccessible to them. While the state continues to claim they have offered beds to every person — camp residents continue to dispute them.
A bed too far away from an individual’s job does not help. A bed with a curfew that conflicts with work shifts is not accessible. In some cases, sober living facilities are not an immediate option to people with untreated addiction, as many do not offer detox services and detoxing without medical care can be deadly.
“We’re trying to be off this land, but where are we gonna go? We have no place to go — we already got kicked out of the places that we used to be. This is our only other option… We have rights just like everybody else here. We are no different from the working class at all,” said a resident of the encampment at 300 Chestnut St.
In a COVID-19 press conference Thursday, Governor Sununu made the outrageous claim that the community members supporting the camp residents were discouraging them from accepting help. This is a bald-faced lie attempting to demonize the community members and shift blame from Sununu’s own inaction. While Sununu spreads lies about the situation, community members and local organizers have supported the camp residents 24 hours a day — coordinating donations, delivering food, speaking with residents about their options, and preventing the state from raiding the camp and forcing the people to another, equally cold, part of the city.
“I haven’t been offered shit. The food and [supplies] we’ve been getting the last few days have been the most we’ve gotten in a while,” another encampment resident said in response to Gov. Sununu’s claim that every person had been offered a bed. The houseless community in Manchester is asking for respect and dignity. Every single person experiencing houselessness has their own story and unique needs. The state is failing to provide the support they need to survive in our community.
“Where is all the money going? Where is the state and federal money? Where are the monetary donations that go to the shelters, and everything else? What we need is for the state, city, county, and feds to work together and decide just where we can go to, without fear of harassment, civil retaliation, and being arrested for sleeping. We need basic human, civil, and constitutional rights,” said another resident of the encampment at 300 Chestnut St.
Today, residents of the encampment held a democratic assembly and established a list of needs and demands:
- Autonomy over health and housing
- Respect, and basic human & civil rights
- Flexible employment options for houseless individuals
- Rent control & cancelation of rents and mortgages (pandemic-related)
- Secure camping zones
- Steady support with housing needs
- Mental health support
- Access to healthcare and dental care
- Affordable housing and housing options
- Supplies needed to survive
- Eliminating barriers (financial & logistical) to obtaining proper ID requirement for jobs/housing
- Easier access to benefits – cash, not checks
- Solutions that actually take the input from the houseless community
- Housing options that don’t have drug/alcohol restrictions or unreasonable curfews
- Funding for job reintegration