Why I’m Running For Alderman-At-Large

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Winter Trabex. Promotional photo

Property taxes are getting higher. Schools attendance is down, as are grades. Homelessness is increasing. Everywhere you look, there is someone sitting on the sidewalk with their personal possessions, waiting for something to happen. Rent is going up. Wages are not. Some businesses are having difficulty finding employees to work for them. Everything seems to be trending in the wrong direction.

I’m here to tell you, as someone who has been homeless, who has experienced these issues first-hand, if we continue to use the same approaches we have been until now, these problems will continue to get worse.

While there is an elderly exemption (in place to help senior citizens stay in their homes- ie, not have their property repossessed due to unpaid property taxes- everyone else, especially those who recently purchased homes, don’t have it so easy.

In New Hampshire, there has been, and continues to be, a bidding war for residential properties for sale. Many buyers are from out-of-state, residing in places like Connecticut and Rhode Island. Developers interested in building new housing complexes have a difficult time with zoning boards.  There just aren’t enough homes and apartments available.

With a decrease in supply, the value of each property goes up. Lumber, an essential component for the construction of new homes, has recently become more expensive.

Added to this, New Hampshire’s population continues to increase over time. Over the last twenty years, from 2000 to 2020, the state’s population has increased by 141,743 people. Each of these people, whether newly born or out-of-state movers, will look for a place to live sooner or later.

While New Hampshire’s median hourly wage was estimated around 27 dollars an hour for all occupations, food servers received an average of 11.95 an hour; fast food workers received 11.71 an hour; bartenders received 9.46 an hour; waiters and waitresses received 9.80 an hour; dishwashers received 11.35 an hour; maids and housekeepers received 13.49 an hour.

These figures are estimated averages for workers across the state.

Meanwhile, the average rent for an apartment in New Hampshire is 1700 dollars, estimated to be 3% above the national average

To make rent with one-third of their income, in order to leave funds over for utilities and groceries and other expenses, a fast food worker making 11.71 an hour would have to work 435 hours a month, or 108 hours a week in a four-week period.

Full-time employment at such wages just isn’t enough to pay for a place to live in the state, particularly in Manchester. Young people feel increasingly locked out of the housing market, and see no reason to continue living in the state. Hence why some businesses are struggling to hire people at entry-level wages.

Homeless people working a full-time job cannot afford an apartment on their own, much less a house. Employers often require a driver’s license and access to a vehicle as a condition of employment, which many homeless individuals do not have. Others struggle to fill out online applications, having neither a computer or an internet connection.

Seeing all these obstacles, some people choose to simply give up. They find it easier to continue using drugs, and stealing from one another to find their next high, rather than try to make something of their lives. Upward mobility, for a lack of a better phrase, is more difficult than ever.

If we as a community, and as a state, want to get people off the streets and into their own residences, we must be willing to look at the fundamental problems causing homelessness, rather than breaking up camp after camp in which Alderman Bill Barry from Ward 10 described as “a game of whack-a-mole.”

People who are working every day won’t be sitting on sidewalks creating what Mayor Joyce Craig described as an “intimidating” atmosphere. People who are in an apartment, trying to make rent every month, aren’t leaving trash on private property and relieving themselves in plain view of the public. People who are busy advancing themselves in life are less likely to require outreach services.

But, because people can’t make rent, because people find advancement extraordinarily difficult, some don’t bother. Work is increasingly being seen less as a positive virtue unto itself and more as a misery-inducing waste of time. Simply saying “get a job” to a homeless person avails nothing- for many jobs aren’t paying enough to live on.

A minimum wage of 25 dollars an hour would be required, at minimum, to allow people to live comfortably in a dwelling of their choosing (assuming such dwellings are actually available for rent in the first place). Or, if this goal is unreasonable and impossible, rent control can be enacted in order to allow people to afford their own place.

If neither a raised minimum wage nor rent control are solutions we wish to pursue, there are only two courses left to us: either we continue relying on taxpayers to foot the bill in the form of subsidies, outreach, medical expenses, food stamps, and so on, or we as a community simply neglect people to death.

Make no mistake: homeless people are dying. These are often tragedies which could be avoided, if only people had stable living conditions. Simply disregarding the lives of other people because we are not willing to take the steps necessary to help them survive and thrive seems, to me, to be the worst kind of heartlessness.

Incumbent candidate for Alderman-at-Large Joe Kelly Levasseur believes homeless people are “swill” or “slobs” and would rather mock them then offer any kind aid, however small. (See attached photograph)

There came a point where I realized I had simply had enough. With regards to homelessness, nothing the city is doing is working. From a tax expenditure perspective, it’s not working. From a human rights standpoint, it’s not working. From a utilization of police resources, it’s not working. There doesn’t even appear to be a marginal improvement in how the city treats the problem.

As I have written about previously, many homeless people don’t feel as though the New Horizons shelter at 199 Manchester Street is a viable option for them. They are often sleep-deprived, their personal property subject to theft, they find themselves around outbursts of violence, and many aren’t allowed to share beds with a partner of their choosing. Some feel the shelter is unclean. Those who work overnight shifts may experience difficulty sleeping during the day. What is more, even those who seek shelter resources may at times be turned away because there are no beds available.

Telling a homeless person to “go to the shelter” highlights an ignorance of the underlying reality of conditions there. There are many who would rather sleep outdoors in a tent, even if they must trespass on private or public property to do so. Breaking up encampments has been shown to scatter homeless individuals elsewhere, rather than make them seek shelter. Thus far, it appears moving time after time after time is preferable to living in an environment that may feel unsafe and unwelcoming.

If I’m being honest, I don’t know how much change a single political candidate can bring about. I’m not even certain if political action will be efficacious in helping to resolve this problem. All I know is, the situation gets worse every year. Homeowners pay for it in the form of increased taxes. Homeless people pay for it with their lives. Businesses pay for it with a disruption of operations.

This cannot be allowed to continue. If nothing changes, shelter use and outreach services will continue increasing. Needles will still be found on public sidewalks. People will continue to die, no matter how many sweeps the city performs.

I’m running for Alderman-at-Large because I care about the lives of other people- whether someone owns a house or doesn’t. Our homelessness crisis is negatively affecting individuals from all sides, from business owners to police officers to homeless people themselves. Rather than treating individuals without a place to live with disdain and contempt, I believe it’s more important to treat them as though they are just people going through a tough time.

They need help. They need compassion. They need empathy. They need someone who cares enough to try and make a difference. I didn’t expect to be that person, but since I didn’t see anyone else filing who though this way, I thought I might as well try.

That’s why I’m running for office this year. I’m tired of sitting back and letting things get worse, watching while thousands, sometimes millions of dollars are spent while the fundamental reality doesn’t improve in the slightest. You don’t have to vote for me- I only ask that you consider how much this crisis affects all of us, and then consider what steps you’re willing to take in order to make a positive difference.

Thank you for your time and attention.

Note: Trabex is listed on the ballot by her legal name, Mark Dennis