Concord homelessness task force recommends more low-income housing, case management

Last modified: 12/17/2013 12:16:23 AM
Following seven months of study, Mayor Jim Bouley’s task force to end homelessness in Concord is recommending more low-income housing, more case management and greater collaboration between the many organizations already serving the homeless. The biggest challenge may be divvying up limited resources between today’s needs and tomorrow’s solutions.

“Our group had many conversations about putting our resources into housing versus shelters,” said Maggie Fogarty of the American Friends Service Committee. “The need for additional shelter is evident. But can we simultaneously be thinking about housing? We don’t solve homelessness with shelters.”

The task force is now seeking public feedback on its proposals before the report goes to the city council. The deadline for comments is Dec. 31, and remarks can be submitted by email to concordhomeless@graniteuw.org. To read the task force’s 25-page report, visit concordnh.gov and enter “homeless” in the search bar.

Fogarty said the task force found it difficult to quantify homelessness in the city because the various organizations that help the homeless do not define homeless the same or have a way to share their numbers. A count done Jan. 23 at the city’s shelters – First Congregational Church, South Church, the McKenna House and Friends Emergency Housing – put the number at 508 people.

That number is up from 506 the year before and 451 the year before that. The figures include individuals and families but don’t capture homeless people staying with friends or elsewhere. Meanwhile, the number of homeless people in the state has been dropping, according to the report.

Fogarty said it was possible that homeless people from elsewhere in the state are relocating to Concord for the services here, even if they are less coordinated than the task force thinks necessary. That may be especially true with the city’s two cold weather shelters opening. The one at First Church opened Saturday; the one at South Church will open this Saturday.

The task force made several recommendations, including the need to better understand who is homeless in the city and why. Other goals include:

∎ Increase the number of affordable housing opportunities for very low-income families with the help of state and federal funding and collaboration with local landlords willing to rent to homeless people if they are assured the rent will be paid.

∎ Once people have permanent housing, provide them the support and services they need to remain stable.

∎ Increase the amount of mental health and addiction counseling, job training and benefits assistance available to the homeless.

∎ Coordinate the many government and nonprofit agencies assisting the homeless.

During a recent public hearing on the task force’s plan, some members of the homeless community in Concord said it can be difficult to take advantage of the available help unless you have a car because services are dispersed across the city. Another man said he needs help with the very basics: access to clean water, showers and laundromats. He said without laundry services, homeless people throw away their donated clothes once they are soiled and take new donations.

Bouley said yesterday that he was pleased with the task force’s work so far and will ask the city council in February what it would like to do with the information. “We have a long way to go,” he said.

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




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