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My Turn: ‘Invisible’ people are suddenly too visible for Concord

Re “Concord police press charges to clear homeless camps” (Monitor front page, May 7):

It turns out that those who are homeless in Concord, who feel invisible as people, are actually too visible.

Recently, two events in Concord happened simultaneously. First, the state posted a public notice of “No Camping” on state property, which included the land behind Everett Arena, Gully Hill, Hazen Drive and Stickney Avenue. Campers were given one week’s notice to vacate the property by May 14. One homeless person, hidden in the woods on state land for three years, lived there quiet and unnoticed. The land had never been posted until now.

Second, the Concord police responded to private landowners by giving violation notices to people camping on private land. The homeless people were given 24 hours’ notice to vacate the property. Many were told they could not return to claim their belongings. One person had been living near the railroad tracks south of the stores on Fort Eddy Road for four years. His place was immaculate: no papers or trash, just a raked and tidy surrounding. He didn’t have a lot of personal belongings – small gifts, a mattress – but he said it was his home. How many people living in an apartment or home would be able to move within 24 hours? Even people who are evicted are given more notice.

Where are people who are homeless supposed to go if they can’t be on state or private land? They are being told to leave but not given alternatives of where to go. The posted notice encourages campers to call 2-1-1. Many homeless feel defeated. They feel as soon as they’ve found another camp, a sign will be posted and they’ll have to move again. They’re using the term “selective enforcement.”

Ultimately, the long-term solution is to find housing for each homeless person, and in order to be housed a person needs to be employed. As far as short-term solutions to the camping issue, our homeless citizens need land. If state and private property are off limits, maybe city property is the next choice. Perhaps there are private landowners who would be willing to take a few campers onto their land.

The people who are homeless have ideas for solutions. They want to work so they can afford housing. What about a job fair for the homeless? The homeless community has a large skill bank. The New Hampshire Employment Security administers the Federal Bonding, Work Opportunity Tax Credit, and Return to Work programs, all designed to create a win-win environment for employers and at-risk people.

I believe Concord  is capable of responding to the challenges of homelessness in dignifying, compassionate and effective ways. Would Concord-area businesses be willing to hire someone who is homeless through these programs to get them back on their feet?

The visibility of the homeless has created a situation where the community would prefer them to be invisible. Out of sight, out of mind. The people who are homeless are tired of being invisible, powerless, and not having a voice. They want to work. They want to be heard. They want to be part of the solution.

(Marcia Sprague is director of the Concord Homeless Resource Center. Her column was written in collaboration with Frank Sobol and Vincent Coppola, who are homeless.)

Legacy Comments10

I have known many people who were homeless-working downtown for over a decade opened my eyes to the diversity of situations that can lead to homelessness. While drugs and alcohol do often play a part, pretending that addiction is the only factor is ridiculous. These people are likely at the lowest point in their lives, but instead of helping them get back on their feet, we'd rather fine them and possibly jail them? Does this seem insanely elitist to anyone else? "Ugh the homeless are gross, and make our city look bad. Arrest them! Fine them!" Seriously? Pass out fines to people who can't afford a place to live? Use your heads, but also use your hearts. Compassion isn't weakness.

Everyone has something in life to offer, even the homeless. These folks did something in their life before homelessness and if the state could tap into their personal resources perhaps the state could use their personal work histories to get them on the road to supporting themselves. For some reason or another these folks have fallen through the cracks and wound up where they are, a hand up at this point would be good for all.

Failed Obama policies and his refusal to decrease regulation, his political game with our economics have led to a 39% increase of people on food stamps and an 86% increase in homelessness. Many of us are just one paycheck away from homelessness. Yes a hand up would be good for all but it is time that we tell the truth and place full blame on Barack Obama.

Jonstah, Agreed. Some folks with the expected alcohol/drug/mental health issues but certainly not all. When conversing, I was impressed with the range of education, experience and talents, represented there and through some choice and more times, misfortune, became homeless. However, appreciation of all of these things does not solve problems for all concerned. Have any ideas?

Is there a posssibility of finding a few good landowners willing to allow screened homeless individuals to camp on their land for a fee? How about a network of citizens who have chores and errands to run, who could pay screened homeless individuals seeking a way out of their predicament? How about a work exchange, chores for tent space? That not most homeless are substance abusers is a point that needs to be repeated again, and again. Many are capable folks just needing to be allowed a chance to better themselves.

The state does hire contractors, private companies if you will. I guess it wouldn't be outside the realm to get a supervisor or two to get these folks to do something that would be needed and at a fair wage to get them some support financially. Someone commented that there are some newly vacant school buildings that could be used for housing which would have showers, cooking facilities et al. Should the city need to clean out their public lands of the homeless then perhaps the homeless could have a safe structured environment to stay out of everyones way and perhaps they have some duties these folks could do for a little heat and lights and a tight roof over their heads. Just saying...

democrats have controlled Concord forever....they own every problem.....they choose to spend $8,000,000 to beautify and heat the sidewalks of Main Street.......the elite democrats true colors come to the surface

When local churches ramped-up their homeless shelter efforts, with all the best intentions, the question was raised; 'Would Concord become a magnet for non-local homeless folk?". Seems it was a valid question.

$10 million for a new Sewell falls bridge. What about a design/build challenge for UNH or some other design firm with the goal of a less expensive bridge, and the savings going towards helping the homeless?

There is a bridge 1 mile north and the road connects to rt.393 a couple miles south. The entire bridge is not needed - they could use the entire $10M.

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