Committee recommends use of CIP funds to enhance services for homeless

New Hampshire Union Leader
January 7, 2019
Paul Feely

MANCHESTER — Members of the Aldermanic Committee on Community Improvement on Monday voted to recommend aldermen OK $200,000 in funding to expand services at — and make capital improvements to — Families in Transition/New Horizons.

The improvements are part of several initiatives unveiled over the weekend by Mayor Joyce Craig in response to frustrations aired by aldermen and downtown business owners in recent months over the number of vagrants on Elm Street.

The full Board of Mayor and Aldermen is expected to vote on the funds when it meets tonight at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall.

Complaints to city officials involving vagrants panhandling, obstructing city sidewalks and using alcoves and doorways as bathrooms have been on the rise in recent weeks.

Craig has referred to the issues of homelessness and housing affordability as a “moral challenge.”

On Monday, Craig went before the Aldermanic Committee on Community Improvement seeking a favorable recommendation for aldermen to approve using $130,000 of uncommitted Community Development Block Grant funds to make improvements to the Families in Transition/New Horizons shelter at 199 Manchester St. Craig expects this funding, combined with other existing funds, to allow for reconfiguration of interior spaces to create areas for safe recovery from substance abuse; rehabilitation of inadequate and severely deteriorated bathroom facilities; and construction of additional physical renovations designed to enhance the safety and attractiveness of the building.

“The goal is to make the necessary renovations so individuals feel comfortable and safe going to the shelter, where they will receive the services they need,” said Craig in a memo.

Craig proposes using $70,000 of the Affordable Housing Trust to allow the shelter to open during the day, in addition to $119,114 to expand services to include two case managers and one program support staff position. The funds will also allow for intensive individual and group case management and the establishment of a formal outreach program.

Families in Transition President Maureen Beauregard said a new intake process led by new shelter support staff will focus on addressing immediate housing needs.

The funds will cover the first six months of 2019, with additional city support up for discussion as part of the FY 2020 budget process.

Under the ‘New Business’ portion of the agenda for tonight’s meeting, Craig plans to ask aldermen to approve a transfer of $9,000 from Contingency to Finance to cover the cost of two ADA compliant, portable toilets in Veterans Park for a six-month pilot program. The cost includes a structure over the toilets and two cleanings a day.

Craig said through the Harvard/Bloomberg Leadership Program, Manchester is one of three cities chosen where the Harvard Kennedy School will pair local officials with a team from its Applied Field Lab on Budgeting, Financial Management, and Operations. A group of 3-5 graduate students, using modeling and data analysis, will focus on quantifying some of the issues and cost considerations with homelessness.

City officials are also working with the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce and InTown Manchester on a citywide campaign discouraging people from giving money or food to panhandlers.

As a short-term solution, Craig said Manchester police have increased patrols in the downtown area.

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