“It’s beautiful” – Eight people experiencing homelessness to move into Pleasant Street apartments

Larry Regan (right) celebrates  with David Lee Josselyn (center) and  Connor Spern of the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness as they inspect one of the eight apartments that will house the homeless at the grand opening  at the Pleasant Street complex on Tuesday, April 23, 2024. Josselyn and Regan have apartments now.

Larry Regan (right) celebrates with David Lee Josselyn (center) and Connor Spern of the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness as they inspect one of the eight apartments that will house the homeless at the grand opening at the Pleasant Street complex on Tuesday, April 23, 2024. Josselyn and Regan have apartments now. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Larry Regan (right) celebrates  with David Lee Josselyn (center) and  Connor Spern of the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness as they inspect one of the eight apartments that will house the homeless at the grand opening  at the Pleasant Street complex on Tuesday, April 23, 2024. Josselyn and Regan have apartments now.

Larry Regan (right) celebrates with David Lee Josselyn (center) and Connor Spern of the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness as they inspect one of the eight apartments that will house the homeless at the grand opening at the Pleasant Street complex on Tuesday, April 23, 2024. Josselyn and Regan have apartments now. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Larry Regan looks over the apartment that he will be living  at the grand opening  at the Pleasant Street complex on Tuesday, April 23, 2024.

Larry Regan looks over the apartment that he will be living at the grand opening at the Pleasant Street complex on Tuesday, April 23, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Larry Regan (left) greets David Lee Josselyn and Connor Spern at the grand opening at the Pleasant Street complex on Tuesday. Josselyn and Regan have apartments now.

Larry Regan (left) greets David Lee Josselyn and Connor Spern at the grand opening at the Pleasant Street complex on Tuesday. Josselyn and Regan have apartments now.

The new complex on Pleasant Stree that will house eight apartments for the former homeless.

The new complex on Pleasant Stree that will house eight apartments for the former homeless. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Larry Regan gets emotional at the grand opening  at the Pleasant Street complex on Tuesday, where he will now have an apartment.

Larry Regan gets emotional at the grand opening at the Pleasant Street complex on Tuesday, where he will now have an apartment. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

The crowd claps at the opening celebration of the new apartment complex to house the formerly homeless on Tuesday, April 23.

The crowd claps at the opening celebration of the new apartment complex to house the formerly homeless on Tuesday, April 23. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

By MICHAELA TOWFIGHI

Monitor staff

Published: 04-23-2024 5:02 PM

Down every street in Dover, reminders of his late wife Stephanie followed Larry Regan. After she passed, he headed towards Concord to start anew. 

It’s taken a while for that to feel like a reality, but the day has finally come. For the last three years, Regan has lived in a tent in the area. Next month, he will move into one of the newly constructed apartments on Pleasant Street from the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness. 

“I’m on disability and I wasn’t able to pay my bills which is why I’ve been on the streets," he said. “I’ve been working towards this, filling out applications and everything. I guess she’s looking down on me from up there. I’m just really happy.” 

The new Pleasant Street apartments will house eight individuals who are currently experiencing homelessness in the Concord area. The one-bedroom units each have a bathroom and an open kitchen and living room. 

As Regan walked into unit D, which would soon be his, he didn’t have words. 

The Pleasant Street project adds to the Coalition’s housing stock in the city, housing clients themselves as inventory stays slim and rent remains high. 

In 2021, four clients moved into apartments on Green Street and that year the nonprofit also purchased a triplex apartment on West Street, where four individuals also moved in.

Next, Karen Jantzen, the executive director for the Coalition, hopes to tie together funding for another project on South State Street, which will also become eight one-bedroom units. If all goes according to plan, construction will begin in October, she said. 

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Construction on Pleasant Street did not come without its hurdles. Prior to breaking ground on the project, the Coalition temporarily housed clients in the building, which had four apartment units at the time. When it came time to move them out, tenants felt blindsided by the temporary state of their shelter. 

In front of the city planning board, the Coalition was called in to explain the removal of two chimneys and a cupola from the initial Pleasant Street structure. The historic features of the house were essential, neighbors complained. The Coalition agreed to replace one chimney and the cupola, albeit cost concerns. 

With the project complete, it will provide much needed housing to people experiencing homelessness in the city, but it’s a small step within a larger mission, said Mayor Byron Champlin. 

“We can’t just be doing eight units here and eight units there,” he said. “What we really need are willing landlords who will partner with the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness to make apartment units available.” 

For the last year, the Coalition has looked to work with local landlords in the area, offering an incentive program to offset the cost of housing someone with a voucher. The program would provide protections, like paying a security deposit and offering a signing bonus, as well as cover renovations to pass inspection requirements. But there's been little success in engaging landlords, said Jantzen. 

Currently, the Coalition is aware of 15 people experiencing homelessness who have rental assistance vouchers but cannot find an apartment. New Hampshire state law allows for landlords to reject this assistance. 

Regan previously had a voucher that expired before he was able to find an apartment. 

Estimates from street outreach in the area last fall named nearly 450 people experiencing homelessness in Merrimack County. Of that population, nearly 300 had been homeless for over a year.  

The Pleasant Street project utilizes project-based vouchers, which means that the rental assistance is tied to each unit. Tenants then can move out, if they wish, and another person experiencing homelessness could take advantage of the subsidy.

The same tactic is helping to house people at the Railyards on Langdon Ave. The Coalition partnered with the developers, Dakota Partners, to secure 10 project-based vouchers for the 198-unit development. The first phase, which is set to open this spring, will house five more people experiencing homelessness. Another five will come in the second phase. 

Between Pleasant Street and the Railyards, that is 13 people that will find housing this spring. The Coalition has already housed an additional 12 households this year, said Jantzen. 

“That’s a lot in a very short, concentrated period of time,” she said. 

As these large-scale developments, like the Steeplegate Mall site and Monitor Way, Janzten hopes that developers will follow suit from Dakota Partners and agree to accept project-based vouchers for clients. 

The Coalition also envisioned building a cottage home community, that could house six to 15 small, prefabricated homes at one location in Concord. Each house would be 500 square feet or smaller, providing a low-cost, effective solution to building more housing in an expensive market. 

However, with stringent zoning ordinances in the city, the Coalition was unable to identify land that could accommodate the project. 

While these ideas could come to fruition with the right help in the city, the Coalition’s next focus will be breaking ground on South State Street, said Jantzen. 

“Between wrapping this project up and trying to get the South State Street project together, there’s only so much we can take on,” said Jantzen. 

In preparation for moving clients into Pleasant Street, the Coalition hosted “tenant-ready” programs and each tenant will continue to participate in case management services while living in the apartment. 

This preparation was what led Regan to one of the units. Each client who will be housed participated in the program and consistently utilized the Coalition’s Resource Center, said Jantzen. 

But when Coalition staff sat Regan down last week and told him he’d soon be moving into one of the new units, he couldn’t believe it. Standing outside the white house, he began to choke on his words. But he knows when he’s able to sit down inside and think about his wife, it will finally hit him. 

“From sleeping in a tent for three years to moving back into an apartment, it’s absolutely a dream,” he said. “It’s beautiful.”