On Green Street, high ceilings and low rent for the formerly homeless

  • Ellen Groh, executive director of the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness, stands in one of the four apartments at the nearly completed Green Street Apartments (shown below) in downtown Concord on Nov. 5. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Executive Director Ellen Groh of the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness stands on the porch of one of the four apartments at the nearly-completed Green Street Apartments in downtown Concord on Thursday, November 5, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Ellen Groh, executive director of the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness, stands on the porch of thee Green Street Apartments in downtown Concord on Thursday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • The nearly-compledted Green Street Apartments owned by the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness. There will be four apatments on Green Street in downtown Concord. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Executive Director Ellen Groh of the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness stands in one of the four apartments at the nearly-completed Green Street Apartments in downtown Concord on Thursday, November 5, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor columnist
Published: 11/9/2020 4:35:12 PM

Ellen Groh and Leslie Fincke, the lead voices and faces for the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness, turned into tour guides last week, showing four apartments on Green Street that will be separated by walls and doors, not trees and tents.

“Nice high ceilings in here,” said Groh, director of the CCEH. “And they have their own entrance, and this is a huge bedroom, and they have a porch that is their own porch.”

Simple pleasures, indeed, but the city’s homeless population never ceases to give many of us the perspective that’s so easy to lose. Groh and Fincke, CEO of the CCEH, are reminded each day that anything can happen to anyone at any time.

“They all have worth,” Groh reminded me. “We’re moving right along, and they’re people like anyone else, and homelessness can have such a stigma.”

Programs like this could move the needle the other way. A public walk-through was postponed last weekend because of the rising cases of COVID-19 in Merrimack County. Groh and Fincke said the apartments could be finished early next month.

The umbrella that oversees this vision – of housing homeless people who remain hopeful and willing to follow basic rules and live independently off the streets – spreads wide, through nearly every nook and cranny in the city’s big, altruistic community.

The New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority grants Section 8 housing and bought the Green Street property from Merrimack County. Concord Housing and Redevelopment will manage the day-to-day operations of the four apartments, all of which will be singles.

Press releases sent out by the CCEH include a mile-long list of institutions and individuals involved in this massive, long-term project, from real estate companies donating a portion of their commissions; to pro bono legal work; to donated supplies and constructive oversight at a reduced rate; to contractors recycling profits back into the renovations on Green Street; to local businesses donating furnishings to all four apartments.

Meanwhile, a thorough application process is underway, searching for those individuals who’ve been homeless the longest period of time, and combining that with a history of stand-up, responsible behavior.

“You cannot have a violent history and you cannot be on the sex offenders list,” Fincke said.

Those who have taken advantage of what the CCEH’s Resource Center has to offer receive preferential treatment on the waiting list, Groh said.

“If they have a referral from our resource center,” Groh said, “and with our case manager working with them on a supportive services plan, they can get priority to jump to the top of the list. We have been telling people, and we’re especially focused on those who are the people who have been homeless the longest and make sure they knew this was available and encouraging them to apply.”

Some in the area have been homeless for 15 to 20 years, the two leaders said. That makes background checks difficult.

“We know people coming from homelessness may not have a good tenants’ history,” Groh said. “They may not have any tenant history. With these guys you can not always do a landlord check. The property manager would say I need a landlord reference, but we are not requiring that for obvious reasons.”

To work the system properly and gain entrance to a whole new life, candidates must join forces with a case-management team, which works with them to create a supportive services plan.

That could mean going back to the basics for many homeless people. They may need to learn an array of procedures to reach societal norms. Sticking to a budget. Applying for food stamps. Scheduling a doctor’s appointment. Seeking a job.

And once that part is in place, the people who are chosen to live at the Green Street apartments must follow the rules.

Just like the rest of us.

“Once you get in the apartment, the rules are the same as in any other scenario,” Fincke said.

Groh said she had two people in mind for a pair of apartments, both of whom have been homeless for years.

Her tour revealed small apartments, bare as of last week, inside a Victorian-style house of blue and beige. The apartments cost $1,007 per month, with 30% of the tenant’s income going toward rent. Section 8 Rental Assistance pays the rest.

Last week, the apartments were filled with cleaning equipment, paint brushes and paint cans, saw horses and hope. The apartments will smell new, and it was easy to see how each, once furnished, would transform into a great place to live.

Groh and Fincke were proud, more than happy to lead the tour.

“These are their stairs,” Groh said. “And this is their hallway, and theirs alone.”




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