New Hampshire

City of Manchester Taking Steps to Clean Up Homeless Encampments

The city of Manchester, New Hampshire is taking steps to clean up homeless encampments where they believe it's necessary.

The city says their goal is to help get people off the the streets, but sometimes that help looks more like an ultimatum to some.

The city has already removed one camp this year.

From the Queen City Bridge in Manchester, tents, clothes and blankets are visible.

"We respond to complaints that come into city hall when there is a public safety or public health issue for someone living there or in the neighboring area," Mayor Joyce Craig said. "We do not proactively go out and disturb people who are living in homeless camps."

Michael Clement was born and raised in Manchester. He said he knows the struggle of finding shelter very well. Clement has been homeless off and on for years, and he knows of a woman whose camp is threatened.

"She's a very good friend of mine," Clement said. "She's been living on the river forever."

Craig said," If she's on private property there's a chance she may not be able to {stay there}."

The city said its first goal is to help its homeless population before having to take drastic measures.

"The first thing we do is try to bring services to the person," said Tim Soucy, Public Health Director for the City of Manchester.

When we asked him if people go with Soucy to receive help, he said, "Some do, Some don't. Some are very happy and don't want to be disturbed, but there are other ones that they just need that little extra push to get them in and get them the help that they need."

One of the agencies the city works with to accomplish safe relocation for a person is Families in Transition-New Horizons.

Cathy Kuhn, PhD, Vice President, Research and Training. said, "Best practices suggest that city officials work closely with outreach workers to ensure the least distress as possible for those who are already facing significant challenges,"

As to the threat some camps can pose to the public's safety, Bill Boyton Chief Communications Officer for the New Hampshire Department of Transportation said, "Removing homeless encampments on State property have not been a priority of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation unless they pose a safety threat to motorists, or the highway system. There is also the potential danger from fires in the Right of Way, and overall safety and health concerns. A similar effort took place once in Manchester in 2017. Safety is key for all involved. The process has included local support and local requests to move people on, advance warning, making sure local social services are provided, and careful explanation of the need (including the safety of the homeless adjacent to traffic)."

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