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Homeless sue state over evictions from public land

  • Andrew Thompson, who did not want to be identifiable in a photograph due to stereotypes of homeless people, has already been forced from one area of Concord to his present location. NHCLU has filed suit under three individuals presently camping on state owned property. The suit comes as they are being forced from the land, yet due to limited resources available, have no where else to go.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Andrew Thompson, who did not want to be identifiable in a photograph due to stereotypes of homeless people, has already been forced from one area of Concord to his present location. NHCLU has filed suit under three individuals presently camping on state owned property. The suit comes as they are being forced from the land, yet due to limited resources available, have no where else to go.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • Andrew Thompson, who did not want to be identifiable in a photograph due to stereotypes of homeless people, has already been forced from one area of Concord to his present location. NHCLU has filed suit under three individuals presently camping on state owned property. The suit comes as they are being forced from the land, yet due to limited resources available, have no where else to go.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Andrew Thompson, who did not want to be identifiable in a photograph due to stereotypes of homeless people, has already been forced from one area of Concord to his present location. NHCLU has filed suit under three individuals presently camping on state owned property. The suit comes as they are being forced from the land, yet due to limited resources available, have no where else to go.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • Cookware inside Andrew Thompson's tent, the second place where he is being forced from after previously relocating from an area near Everett Arena. NHCLU has filed suit under three individuals presently camping on state owned property. The suit comes as they are being forced from the land, yet due to limited resources available, have no where else to go.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Cookware inside Andrew Thompson's tent, the second place where he is being forced from after previously relocating from an area near Everett Arena. NHCLU has filed suit under three individuals presently camping on state owned property. The suit comes as they are being forced from the land, yet due to limited resources available, have no where else to go.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • Cookware inside Andrew Thompson's tent, the second place where he is being forced from after previously relocating from an area near Everett Arena. NHCLU has filed suit under three individuals presently camping on state owned property. The suit comes as they are being forced from the land, yet due to limited resources available, have no where else to go.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Cookware inside Andrew Thompson's tent, the second place where he is being forced from after previously relocating from an area near Everett Arena. NHCLU has filed suit under three individuals presently camping on state owned property. The suit comes as they are being forced from the land, yet due to limited resources available, have no where else to go.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • Andrew Thompson, who did not want to be identifiable in a photograph due to stereotypes of homeless people, has already been forced from one area of Concord to his present location. NHCLU has filed suit under three individuals presently camping on state owned property. The suit comes as they are being forced from the land, yet due to limited resources available, have no where else to go.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
  • Andrew Thompson, who did not want to be identifiable in a photograph due to stereotypes of homeless people, has already been forced from one area of Concord to his present location. NHCLU has filed suit under three individuals presently camping on state owned property. The suit comes as they are being forced from the land, yet due to limited resources available, have no where else to go.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
  • Cookware inside Andrew Thompson's tent, the second place where he is being forced from after previously relocating from an area near Everett Arena. NHCLU has filed suit under three individuals presently camping on state owned property. The suit comes as they are being forced from the land, yet due to limited resources available, have no where else to go.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
  • Cookware inside Andrew Thompson's tent, the second place where he is being forced from after previously relocating from an area near Everett Arena. NHCLU has filed suit under three individuals presently camping on state owned property. The suit comes as they are being forced from the land, yet due to limited resources available, have no where else to go.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

Three homeless men from Concord have filed a lawsuit against the state, arguing they cannot be prohibited from camping on state-owned land, especially without a hearing.

Barbara Keshen, an attorney for the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union, filed the lawsuit last week after state officials stepped up efforts to clear homeless camps from public land. The three plaintiffs are living in the woods off Hazen Drive, in tidy campsites that are beyond the view of neighboring residences.

But Keshen said she brought the case on behalf of the entire homeless community, estimated to be 150 people in Concord. Keshen hopes the lawsuit increases public awareness about the lack of emergency shelters and affordable housing opportunities in Concord.

There is a single year-round emergency shelter in Concord, and its 26 beds are usually full, Kehsen said in her lawsuit.
But more critical, Keshen said, is to stop the state from evicting homeless people who have had nowhere to go since March, when two church-run emergency shelters closed for the year.

“There are lots of people who have been displaced,” Keshen said. “And they need to live somewhere.”
Frank Sobol, 52, is one of the three plaintiffs. He had been living near the railroad tracks between the Holiday Inn on North Main Street and the Friendly Kitchen on South Commercial Street until the police cleared the area in March, at the request of private property owners there.

Sobol relocated his tent to the area off Hazen Drive.

He’s settled into his new location and appreciates its proximity to Loudon Road, where he can use restrooms at businesses that are open 24 hours a day. But the long walk to the Friendly Kitchen and the homeless resource center on North Main Street is difficult, he said, because he has a heart condition and bad knees.

Sobol joined the lawsuit, in part, because he’s frustrated that while some in the city are trying to help the homeless by running the Friendly Kitchen and the resource center, city and state officials are eliminating the places they can live.

“The powers that be do not want us walking around the sidewalks of Concord because we are nothing but a glaring symbol . . . of their failure,” Sobol said Friday. “And they keep pushing us further and further away from the services that the (other groups) are providing.”

The lawsuit, filed in Merrimack County Superior Court, is the latest development in what has been a difficult back-and-forth between the homeless and city and state officials.

This spring, after the two church shelters closed, the Concord police began asking homeless people to leave their camps on private property along the railroad tracks. At the same time, state officials posted several state-owned properties for trespassing, including land behind Everett Arena, Gully Hill behind Loudon Road, land along Stickney Avenue and land off Hazen Drive, where Keshen’s clients are now living.

Keshen first responded by asking the state Department of Administrative Services to hold a hearing, during which the homeless could argue for their right to use public land. In her April letter to Commissioner Linda Hodgdon, Keshen said the public land behind the Everett Arena, along the Merrimack River, had been used “for years” as a camping site for homeless people.

“The individuals . . . are involuntarily homeless,” Keshen wrote. “They do not have private homes or private property on which they can erect living quarters. They are required by circumstance to perform all of life’s activities, such as eating and sleeping on public land.”

Keshen said she has never received a response to her letter.

Earlier this month, the Concord police stepped up their efforts to move homeless people off private property. In early May, the police began charging individuals with trespassing if they remained on the property after receiving a warning.

The police issued 18 court summons for trespassing and alcohol violations on a single Sunday. At the same time, state officials reposted the state-owned properties for trespassing.

Keshen told the Monitor at the time she wasn’t sure what other action she could take. After doing some research, she found one: the lawsuit.

She argues that the law cited in the state’s no trespassing signs is problematic for the state. First, the law prohibiting camping on state land says camping is not allowed “unless permission is received from the governing board of the governmental agency” with jurisdiction over the property. Keshen said that implies her April request for a hearing should have been granted.

Second, Keshen said the law prohibiting camping on public land is within the authority of the transportation department. Yet, Keshen said, the transportation department has authority over roads but not the land being used by the homeless people.

No one at the state attorney general’s office, which will defend the state against the lawsuit, could be reached for comment late Friday afternoon. A hearing is set for May 20, and Keshen said the attorney general’s office has agreed to put off further action until after that hearing.

That’s good news for Andrew Thompson, who is 48, homeless and also living in a tent off Hazen Drive. He and Sobol said they didn’t see any no trespassing signs when they first arrived on the property months ago. They appeared since, some of them as recently as Friday, Thompson said.

His camp, which includes a lean-to he built using downed limbs, has a kitchen area, a small grill and table for eating meals. He stayed in his shelter all winter, he said. And, he said, he’s left every place he’s tented cleaner than when he found it.

Thompson said he bagged litter and trash around the Everett Arena when he was there. He did the same at his new spot, he said. The site was free of litter Friday, during a visit he had little time to prepare for. Thompson doesn’t understand why he can’t stay put, given that he’s not causing problems and has nowhere else to live.

(Annmarie Timmins can be reached at 369-3323, atimmins@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @annmarietimmins.)

Legacy Comments23

I see now that not a one of you truly know what the ---- you are talking about, Try walking in thier shoes and see what you think or if your opinion would change, LOL, Homeless.

It is appalling the homeless are suing over this. They have no right and it is a waste of time and resources for the town. The Friendly Kitchen is doing nothing to help these people. They are enabling them to continue to be homeless, by giving them blankets, tents etc. If they really wanted to help they should be giving them the tools they need to get back on their feet and live a normal life in society. Having the homeless in MY backyard, on private property and staying on the train tracks is extremely unnerving. They never asked permission to stay there, and after repeated times being asked to leave, the police had to be called to remove them and they left the place trashed. They DO NOT clean up after themselves. The train tracks are owned by the railroad and it is not legal for them to be staying there and the homeless have been told several times by the railroads to move, or they will be removed. I do not understand how people can be defending the homeless when they do not have personal experience of feeling unsafe in their own home because there are homeless people living in your backyard. If you want to defend these people, then open up your home, so they have a place to stay.

For starters When you say " If they really wanted to help they should be giving them the tools they need to get back on their feet and live a normal life in society" is exactly what the Friendly Kitchen is trying to do. For some people the meals at the Friendly Kitchen are the only meals they get all day. Don't roll all homeless people into the same lot. Most do clean up after themselves. When you say, " the police had to be called to remove them and they left the place trashed." they were not giving time to remove the trash or even get their possessions. They suing the state because they did not provide due process of law. There is no place for the homeless to stay without being harassed, unless you want to open your home and invite them in.

TechSquad: If the homeless are claiming to keep their sites clean, they won't need to time to clean them up once asked to leave by the police and the police wouldn't need to be called if they weren't camping on private property. These people do not have the right to stay on public land. They are not paying taxes, they are leaving many of the areas they are staying trashed and costing the tax payers more money to have it cleaned up. Many of these homeless are taking advantage of the charity they are receiving just so they don't have to contribute to society. It is ridiculous and infuriating to see homeless people with their signs on fort eddy road asking for help, they were a veteran etc....and then see them on a cell phone. I think many people don't see what I have seen my entire life, because they have been living in my backyard on private property and refuse to leave and continue to come back. They do not deserve due process, they were trespassing on private land and do not pay taxes to use public land. Why don't you open up your home to the homeless and help them become contributing members of society?

Hey Annmarie, I see that you're at it again with the homeless issue this seven (7) years later of the never-ending problem, of maybe one of these spots in my 4/28/2006 e-mail to Bill Tinker of Norrthfield, N.H. (R.I.P.) can help. - - Joe cc: N.H. Chapter of The A.C.L.U. "Barbara Keshen, an attorney " http://www.nhbar.org/publications/archives/display-news-issue.asp?id=3329 https://www.facebook.com/barbara.keshen http://www.aclu.org/affiliate/new-hampshire http://nhclu.org/

And we see this in the Concord Police report. Don't walk in Concord at night. Especially if you have a warrant. "Kevin Eric Smith, 42, of Manchester, was arrested at 2:25 a.m. on April 23, on a bench warrant for failure to appear disorderly conduct in Manchester District Court. While traveling west on Loudon Road, an officer noticed a man carrying a black duffle bag and backpack, also walking west. The officer stopped and spoke to the man, Smith, and asked him what he was doing and Smith allegedly stated that he did not want to answer any questions. The officer then asked where he was going and Smith allegedly said he didn’t need to answer the question. The officer asked for identification, his name, or anything with information on it. Smith reportedly rifled through his bag trying to find something and later, showed the officers cards with his name on it. The officer asked where he lived and Smith said it was complicated. When asked what he was doing walking at that time of the night, Smith reportedly looked in the direction of the woods behind the Everett Arena and said he filed papers in the woods. Dispatch later told the officer that Smith was wanted by Manchester District Court on a disorderly conduct charge from March 12, 2012, with an amount of bail “to be determined.” Smith was arrested and refused bail. He was arraigned remotely on April 23."

I am sorry but I truly feel the need to comment here. I used to feel sorry for the homeless and the ones who truly need help, I do have pity for. Having said that, I am tired of driving the streets of Concord and seeing people stand out their with their signs begging for money. I know people who know some of these people and the amount of money they bring in daily is far more than I make. So for them to not be able to find decent affordable housing is ludicrous! Not all but most are taking our hard earned money and using it for alcohol and drugs. If they werent, they definietly would be able to afford a studio apartment. FYI have you seen how some of them dress? Better then I! If I didnt know people who knew these people and how much they brag about how much they are "bringing in" a day and what it is being used for, I would still be having a blind eye. Also I believe last summer, Concord Monitor did an article on a homeless man who received approx $1200 per month SSI and was talking about the reason he needed to panhandle. His reason was because after a few days "At the camp" of buying alchol and cigarettes, others would borrow them too and he would be out of money after for rest of month! I am sorry but I work way to hard to continue to support their habits instead of them working like you and I!

I am also sorry you truly feel the need to comment. You and Collie, ItsaRepublic, Waltham_Watch, sail and Jim... All EXTREMELY good reasons the Concord Monitor should eliminate poster anonymity. On behalf of the large silent majority, I truly feel the need to express shame at the vocal minority.

Speaking of anonymity, Common_Grind is a very strange name.

I think that the argument Common Grind makes is an argument to have anonymity. It appears that he/she feels that by identifying the posters it will place shame on them and therefore change the conversation and present only one viewpoint, which would happen, all of the time. Then it would not be an opinion forum, correct?

I sympathize as well with your comments to a point. Do me a favor, step back into the real world for a minute. Just where is this imaginary affordable housing? Subsidized housing has a waiting list so long that pigs may fly before it's your turn. 9 times out of 10, the people with the signs you mention are not the homeless at issue here, they are the parasites that prey on the truly needy. The homeless that are being attacked are way too busy trying to be invisable to bring attention to themselves. As for " ....reason was because after a few days "At the camp" of buying alchol......" Don't you mean I work to hard for my money to share, that's his crime???? Talk about a collection of Christian wannabee's. While we are on the subject of panhandling, let's do away with the boy/girl scout dreaded cookie and popcorn season and don't get me started on sports teams.

OK first of all, I have def done my fair share of helping others! I have many of times given money, clothes, food to the homeless. I have offered support to them about where there are jobs(an there are jobs). I have even offered to cut their hair to help them look presentable when going to the interview! After reeading an article about a man who was bragging about how he spent his SSI money, it did make me think. Why should I be giving my "HARD EARNED MONEY" away to them so they can drink it away. Im sorry if this offends you but I know first hand several homeless people who have a place to stay and choose this lifestyle and brag about the amount of money they "bring in" everyday. If you want to continue to help them by giving them money, thats your choice as well as its my choice. I will help them by guiding them to resources if they want! AS far as affordable housing and waiting lists? Yes there are some lists for sure but once again, I have had a few friends who have been close to eviction and if they are close or have been, most places will push them up the list! Im not saying all, but most of the homeless do have a choice and they choose this lifestyle.

Some really compassionate comments. I don't see them asking for someone to pay for their accomodations. Not looking for someone to foot the bill while they summer by the pool at the Marriot, they just want a spot to live in, pure and simple. Living under a tarp in the woods in NH is not an easy accomplishment nor glamorous one. "I am tired of paying for their free ride" living outside under a tarp and relying on the kindness of volunteers is what you call a free ride. Give me a break. Not every issue can be black and white or have an easy answer. And it certainly can't be boiled down to a scam to take any hard earned money of yours. Try and use google to lookup the word compassion.

Mauser1: The most compassionate thing one person can do for another is give them dignity and teach them to stand on their own, not make them dependent on others for the rest of their lives. For those who are mentally ill and cannot, different situation.

Correct....well said but we had a hospital system in place and the ACLU was primarily responsible for destroying it in the name of "patients rights".

oh how sick I am of the old - give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day give him a fishing pole and blah blah blah. The problem is that people don't want to know about the homeless, they don't want to see them, they don't want to know they exist. My tax dollars are being wasted blah blah blah. What is the general solution - round them up and put them on a bus to Boston? That's what they did when the State Hospital was being closed. IOt's time for hypocrits to own up, if you try and balance a budget by cutting mental health services - you get this. It is really hard to lift yourself up by your bootstraps when you main focus is trying to survive. woof woof, sorry duke.

They must have run out of money for Boston bus tickets. Closing the State Hospital was a wicked bad idea, and changing downtown Concord's landscape, is another.

We have caused the problem of homelessness ourselves by giving these folks everything. We have robbed them of their ability to take responsibility for their own actions and removed their motivation to get up and help themselves. Now they are going to sue! Really funny! What happens when children are given everything? They become adults who think the world owes them a living. I am all for helping someone get a hand up, but I am not for giving them an endless free ride. The question is where are these folks being evicted from the camps going to go? How about a bus ticket to the Dakotas to work in the oil fields. Lots of camps out there and big money to be made.

Why don't they just let them camp on the property @ $25.00 a night. That way, in no time at all, the property would be vacant.

Way to go democrats. The democrats that have controlled Concord for ever are going to spend $8,000,000 to beautify and heat the sidewalks of Concord yet they cant find a penny for he necessary expansion of shelters for the homeless....that is the democrat party we know

Once again Sail can’t see the forest for the trees through his rose colored republican glasses. If there’s a problem look for a democrat; case solved. Here’s the facts regarding the Complete Streets project. The committee that was appointed by the Mayor was chaired by Steve Duprey a prominent republican. Dan St. Hilaire, another prominent republican was also on the committee. The city council is non partisan and while the majority of the council may lean democratic, both the committee’s and city council’s vote to approve the Complete Streets Projects was unanimous. The homeless issue requires some serious thought. How do we best assist those who are unable to provide for themselves, either through circumstances beyond their control or those that created this problem for themselves. I’m far from an expert on this subject. Perhaps a combination of living quarters, work requirements, counseling for those with substance abuse issues and education / job training. The most difficult part for the community is where do we find the economic resources in a community that has found it difficult to pay for our current services and maintenance needs.

Trurer words have never been spoken. However, if I was ever forced to survive with a tent or tarp in the woods - I guarantee a drug/alcohol problem would not be far behind.

Appears these folks are starting to learn it is easier to beat the system from within. A lawyer once told me - it's easier to find a technicality and get a ruling changed than to just outright win by court discussion. Sounds like they have already identified a few technicalities. Next will be to see if they have learned to just keep filing motions until you find a judge to agree with their side of the argument. That's the way the big boys and girls play.

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