Manchester NH

Manchester NH

why are we "NH Under The Bridge"?

NH Under The Bridge is an organization founded on the principle that in order to end homelessness, people who are homeless must become an organized, effective voice for systemic change.

Our position is that if you lose your housing and chose to live in public spaces rather than go to shelter the police should not abuse your constitutional and human rights! We fight to end selective enforcement of Quality of Life regulations (we ask "Whose Quality of Life" is improved by moving homeless people from public spaces?)

It's not a homeless crisis - it's a housing crisis!

The city's best hope for reducing and preventing homelessness is a commitment to addressing the skyrocketing rents and general housing shortage that plagues NH and drives people by the thousands into homelessness. Yet at the same time as the homeless population continues to escalate, landlords and the city continue to keep buildings empty and gentrify our neighborhoods.

We are a citywide organization and our constituency includes homeless people living in shelters as well as those living on the streets and in other public places. We serve a broad population of people because homelessness cuts across all boundaries: race, ethnicity, culture, gender, family composition, age, sexual orientation, language, etc., but what all homeless people have in common as a community is extreme poverty and social stigmatization.

There are currently over 5000 people in the NH shelter system, In addition the 14.000 people who came forward to ask for help but found no room at the shelters. These numbers do not include street-dwelling homeless people, or the hundreds of families waiting for placement in a shelter, or the doubled-up households throughout the state that go uncounted.

Our outreach targets individuals from within the shelter system, as well as those who are unable/unwilling to live within it. We meet them on their turf and their terms.

NH Under The Bridge was founded on the principle that homeless people have civil and human rights regardless of our race, creed, color or economic status. NH Under The Bridge Was founded by homeless and formerly homeless people. We refuse to accept being neglected and we demand that our voices and experience are heard at all levels of decision-making that impact us.
We oppose the quality of life laws that criminalize homeless people in any form by the city, state and national governments. We work to change these laws and policies as well as to challenge the root causes of homelessness. Our strategies include grass roots organizing, direct action, and educating homeless people about their rights, public education, changing media stereotypes, and building relationships with allies.

"Under the bridge isn't just a place, It's a way of life some have to face cold and alone outside the fortunate can’t live life, cause they can't afford it. Under the bridge isn't a place, it's a feeling you get when you are all alone, no rescue in sight and The only thing on your mind is where you'll sleep tonight"-Jamie Kupchun 1999

about the project

Under The Bridge is self supporting through our own contributions and it survives on God's Providence, through your generosity. We are not a non-profit and do not give tax receipts. Nothing comes in that does not go out directly to the people in need. We dont need money, we need goods and food to distribute.

We can’t measure smiles; how many weeks it takes for someone to finally trust us and tell us their name.
Some get financially better off; they become employed, sober, or qualify for other programs.
Some get off the street,Some don’t. Some die.
We are not in charge of the final outcome but we are able to help along the way with a little compassion and a lot of understanding. Anyone can do what we do.It starts with a smile and a greeting.

We have found that one of the most important things you can offer is your time and friendship. We see the same people every day and make sure we know their name and begin to find out their story. That way we can find out what they need and want instead of having to guess what they could use. Each person is an individual, one may need new socks and someone else would need a toothbrush.
Your friendship is invaluable. Your experience, strength and hope is all you can offer at times, it is essential.

As homelessness continues to increase, so does the outrage of death on our streets. Having a permanent roof over one’s head, an adequate income and health care would greatly reduce the number who die homeless.
Having treatment programs with available drop-in beds would further facilitate the addict into recovery from the street, as is is not normal for a street person to be able to call for a bed daily, as is required now.

I Stand at the Door

By Sam Shoemaker (from the Oxford Group)

I stand by the door.
I neither go to far in, nor stay to far out.
The door is the most important door in the world -
It is the door through which men walk when they find God.
There is no use my going way inside and staying there,
When so many are still outside and they, as much as I,
Crave to know where the door is.
And all that so many ever find
Is only the wall where the door ought to be.
They creep along the wall like blind men,
With outstretched, groping hands,
Feeling for a door, knowing there must be a door,
Yet they never find it.
So I stand by the door.

The most tremendous thing in the world
Is for men to find that door - the door to God.
The most important thing that any man can do
Is to take hold of one of those blind, groping hands
And put it on the latch - the latch that only clicks
And opens to the man's own touch.

Men die outside the door, as starving beggars die
On cold nights in cruel cities in the dead of winter.
Die for want of what is within their grasp.
They live on the other side of it - live because they have not found it.

Nothing else matters compared to helping them find it,
And open it, and walk in, and find Him.
So I stand by the door.

Go in great saints; go all the way in -
Go way down into the cavernous cellars,
And way up into the spacious attics.
It is a vast, roomy house, this house where God is.
Go into the deepest of hidden casements,
Of withdrawal, of silence, of sainthood.
Some must inhabit those inner rooms
And know the depths and heights of God,
And call outside to the rest of us how wonderful it is.
Sometimes I take a deeper look in.
Sometimes venture in a little farther,
But my place seems closer to the opening.
So I stand by the door.

There is another reason why I stand there.
Some people get part way in and become afraid
Lest God and the zeal of His house devour them;
For God is so very great and asks all of us.
And these people feel a cosmic claustrophobia
And want to get out. 'Let me out!' they cry.
And the people way inside only terrify them more.
Somebody must be by the door to tell them that they are spoiled.
For the old life, they have seen too much:
One taste of God and nothing but God will do any more.
Somebody must be watching for the frightened
Who seek to sneak out just where they came in,
To tell them how much better it is inside.
The people too far in do not see how near these are
To leaving - preoccupied with the wonder of it all.
Somebody must watch for those who have entered the door
But would like to run away. So for them too,
I stand by the door.

I admire the people who go way in.
But I wish they would not forget how it was
Before they got in. Then they would be able to help
The people who have not yet even found the door.
Or the people who want to run away again from God.
You can go in too deeply and stay in too long
And forget the people outside the door.
As for me, I shall take my old accustomed place,
Near enough to God to hear Him and know He is there,
But not so far from men as not to hear them,
And remember they are there too.

Where? Outside the door -
Thousands of them. Millions of them.
But - more important for me -
One of them, two of them, ten of them.
Whose hands I am intended to put on the latch.
So I shall stand by the door and wait
For those who seek it.

'I had rather be a door-keeper
So I stand by the door.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Anatomy of a bridge fire HippoPress

The series of events that converged on April 12 created a potentially deadly crisis. City officials reacted to the fire as a citywide disaster, and it very nearly was.

By Dan J. Szczesny
Photos by Neil Lovett

When Manchester Fire Department pump operator Roland Roberge jumped out of Engine No. 6, the fire was eating its way east toward the highway. It had to be stopped. Roberge had to find a hydrant fast. Engine No. 6 only carries about five minutes of water supply, and it was being drained quickly to fight the growing fire. That five minute head start wasn’t nearly enough. After a few moments of trying to open a nearby hydrant, Roberge realized it was rusted shut. The hunt was on for another hydrant, but not before the truck ran out of water, and the fire moved out overo Interstate 293.

At about the same time, Dino and Rose were coming home from an afternoon of sunbathing by the Piscataquog River. Dino and Rose lived under the bridge in a makeshift apartment built out of wood pallets and carpeting. They saw the smoke from McGregor Street as they walked home. A cop directed them away from the fire, and Dino and Rose weren’t about to tell him that it appeared it was their home that was on fire. Afraid, they walked away to find someone who could help.
Meanwhile, city Emergency Management Director Chief Joseph Kane was beginning to understand the scope of the problem. It wasn’t the bridge that was on fire-it was the cables underneath that provided communication to most of the West Side, including Catholic Medical Center. Within minutes of the start of the fire, thousands of residents from as far away as Pinardville and Goffstown had no 911 service. Kane ordered the city’s Emergency Operation Center to be opened. Minutes later all the city’s department heads were on their way to Central Fire Station on Merrimack Street.

The fire spreads west over the river

On Friday, April 12 a fast moving fire that started under the west side of the Bridge Street Bridge consumed nearly $500,000 worth of telephone and television cables strung under the bridge. Reports in the aftermath of the fire blamed the homeless people who lived there. But the causes of the fire, and the reasons it spread and created such damage, are far more complex.
A series of events that included faulty fire hydrants, the initial construction of the bridge which put fiberglass-wrapped conduits within arm’s reach and the city’s growing homeless population created a potentially lethal situation. City officials reacted to the fire as a citywide disaster, and it very nearly was.

For the first time, through a series of interviews with everyone involved, HippoPress offers an anatomy of the fire-why it was more serious than reported, why a fairly harmless brush fire got so out of control, and what can be done to prevent another disaster from taking place.

April 12, 4:00 p.m.

Verizon president Mike Hickey was in a conference on the 19th floor of the City Hall Plaza building when someone pointed out the window and said there was a fire on the Bridge Street Bridge. Like most people there that afternoon, he initially thought a car on the bridge was on fire. After all, bridges don’t burn.

But when reports of service interruptions on the West Side began coming in, Hickey and Verizon officials quickly understood that Verizon phone lines along the bridge were going up in flames.

Along with two AT&T cables, there were five major copper cables and two fiber cables owned by Verizon under the bridge. The five copper cables contained 10,300 pairs of service wires. Each pair delivered service to one residence on the West Side, Pinardville and Goffstown. Some of the fiber cables delivered service to customers as far away as Weare and New Boston.

The cable conduits were designed when the bridge was built in 1988-89. The engineers who designed the conduits and the cross-frames that held them chose to encase the cables in fiberglass. They were concerned that enclosing the cables in metal or concrete would be too heavy a load for such a wide span-about 800 feet. Plus, fiberglass allowed for expansion and contraction in different types of weather.

That fiberglass was now melting away and firefighters would soon have to fight the fire while being showered by flaming fiberglass powder as the fire sheared it off the cables in a series of tiny explosions.

“Get me the mayor,” Hickey said, watching the smoke and flames grow.

4:10 p.m.

The first fire team to respond was Engine No. 6 from the Amory Street fire station. The engine company was responding to a report of a brush fire spotted on the embankment of the Bridge Street Bridge, just above Interstate 293. At that time on a weekday, about 11,500 cars an hour whiz by on the interstate, and traffic on the bridge is usually backed up at the Bridge and McGregor streets intersection.

The engine team first decided to approach the fire on a small access road next to the interstate at the bottom of the embankment, but soon realized they couldn’t get close enough, and that the fire was more under the bridge than next to it.

Engine No. 6 came back around and parked in the northeast parking lot behind 195 McGregor St. By this point, a heavy northern wind had picked up and cars were driving through near-blinding smoke on both Bridge Street and the interstate.

The engine carries about 750 gallons of water and pumps about 150 to 200 gallons of water a minute. While firefighters hopped the rail and headed down the embankment to begin attacking the fire, pump operator Roland Roberge was left with the task of finding his colleagues a steady water supply.

District Chief James Burkush and other reinforcements were on their way, called in when firefighters realized that cables under the bridge were being threatened. For the moment, no one knew what those cables were-if they were electrical or gas, the firefighters themselves could be in danger.
Manchester and state police were called, but not on the scene yet. Roberge dragged his line to an old fire hydrant only 50 yards from the fire, but couldn’t get the hydrant open. In Manchester nearly 500 of the city’s 3,500 hydrants are on private property and, supposedly, inspected and kept up by property owners. Not this one. Age and rust had sealed it shut. Roberge headed back as Engine No. 6 ran out of water.4:15 p.m.

It had been a good day for Dino and Rose. They had spent the afternoon hanging out down by the old trestle near the Kelley Street Bridge. It was a warm day. They were dressed casually-jeans, T-shirts and Dino with his favorite baseball cap. Dino and Rose do not look homeless, despite the fact that Dino has lived under the Bridge Street Bridge off and on for about six years.

Two couples lived there, in a shanty complex made of wood pallets, carpeting and bricks. They didn’t know it at the time, but Dino and Rose’s apartment was on fire. Later, on the 11 p.m. news, officials speculated that the people living under the bridge caused the fire. But Dino and Rose insist that they weren’t home, and wrote a statement saying as much to the police with the help of local homeless activist Cindy Carlson.

Later, one news report floated the possibility that kids lit Dino and Rose’s stuff on fire, but police still have little idea how the fire started. What is clear is that it completely destroyed everything Dino and Rose owned.

By the time the two got back to the bridge, an officer was directing traffic at the Bridge and McGregor street intersection and wouldn’t let them by. Not willing to say anything yet, Dino and Rose walked away, eventually reaching Carlson’s apartment.

“I think our house is on fire,” Dino said when Carlson answered the door.
4:20 p.m.

Chief Burkush got lucky. It was the first good thing that happened since the fire started. One of his firefighters, Lt. Bob Beaudet, worked on the construction crew that built the Bridge Street Bridge in 1988. Beaudet was able to tell Burkush that the cables under the bridge were for communications only and not a danger to firefighters.

But Burkush needed more good news. State police were not yet on the scene and the fire was now moving over the bridge. Burkush sent another engine crew down onto the interstate from Eddy Road near the Coca-Cola plant. The interstate had to be closed, as flaming cable was now beginning to blow down onto the road.

Capt. Mike Gamache rolled his engine truck down Eddy Road and out onto the interstate, praying the oncoming cars would pay attention to the giant fire truck, sirens blaring, coming toward them and stop. In a dangerous maneuver most firefighters would rather not attempt, he angled his engine across the road bringing Friday afternoon’s rush hour traffic to a screeching halt even as a few final drivers squeaked by under falling, flaming debris.

Meanwhile, the firefighters were beginning to get some things under control. Traffic on the bridge had finally been stopped, and Burkush was able to begin running a line across the street to a city-maintained hydrant near the intersection. Below the bridge, Gamache’s pump man clamped his hose onto a hydrant down by the interstate and opened her up.

It was another private hydrant, and the water supply lasted less than 10 minutes before the hydrant’s threads ripped away under the pressure and rendered it useless.

Burning conduits were now exploding and flaming fiberglass was coming down around Burkush’s men. He had managed to get the third hydrant set up, but it was too late. The fire had jumped the interstate and was now moving across the bridge over the river. Burkush called for more help. To stop the fire they were going to have to make a stand on the east side of the bridge. There was nothing they could do except wait for the fire to come to them.

4:30 p.m.

Even as the fire raged, Hickey and his crew were trying to get help to customers. Replacement cable-8,000 feet of it-was ordered from Massachusetts and New York. It would arrive that evening.

While Verizon work crews headed to the scene, another group of technicians began bringing cell phones to strategic locations around the West Side, which had been without 911 service for half an hour. Over 20 cell phones were brought to Catholic Medical Center. Through the Verizon Wireless phone store on South Willow Street, another 100 phones were distributed to emergency phone stations being set up around the West Side, including at Kings Bowling Alley, Northwest Elementary School and St. Mary’s Bank.

Hickey had already reached Mayor Bob Baines, who was eating dinner at Pappy’s Pizza on Elm Street. Because he did not have his city cell phone with him, Baines didn’t realize that Chief Kane had been trying to track him down. Hickey reached the mayor on his private cell phone and told him what he knew about the fire. Later, around 6:30 p.m., the mayor arrived home to discover several messages on his machine, informing him that the city was in a state of emergency and to get to Central Fire Station.

5:00 p.m.

Hundreds of spectators had assembled in Arms Park to watch, and now the fire was coming toward them. A police detail began roping off the area under the bridge on the east side as the fire crept over the water.

Burkush called fire crews from Goffstown, Bedford and Merrimack to Manchester’s West Side to cover the city’s fire stations. A group of firefighters set up a powerful water cannon called a “master stream” on the ground, and pumped 800 gallons a minute against the flames. Soon a second truck joined in. It was the firefighter’s last real chance to stop the flames before the cables burned up to the Wall Street Towers parking lot, or to the towers themselves.

The “master stream” seemed to do the trick, and the fire was under control an hour after it had started. The next step was up to city and Verizon officials, who stood at the scene watching the ragged web of communication cables fall into the river.

5:30 p.m.

Emergency Management Director Chief Joseph Kane had just come off his regular shift and was on his way to his daughter’s school recital when he got the call to come back to the station.

For the past hour he had monitored the progress of his men fighting the fire. Normally, the mayor would call for the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to be opened, but Kane made the decision himself this time. He would, at least, start preparations while city officials were tracking down the mayor.

His decision to open the center was based on one thing: communications. Thousands of residents and businesses were now without phone lines, and that meant they were without 911 services. And Kane had no idea how widespread the problem was.

The police department had already sent extra patrol cars out to the West Side in the hope that if anyone needed help, a patrol car would not be difficult to flag down.

The city’s EOC is made up of three rooms on the second floor of the Central Fire Station at 100 Merrimack St. The first room is a conference center, with large leather chairs around an oak table. Within a half hour of opening the EOC, the chief of police and fire, health and traffic department directors, superintendent of schools, chairman of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, and the mayor would be gathered around that table.

Each would have a nameplate, and each would open a package of updates and instructions pertaining to the emergency. In this case, Kane was also going to bring in Verizon officials.

Along with the conference room known as the “think tank,” the city’s EOC includes an operations room. Above the ceiling panels, electrical and phone connections drop down to desks set up for Red Cross, police and fire dispatch, and other state officials. The operations room also has ham radio facilities.
The third room in the EOC is for media briefings and press conferences.

The last time the EOC was opened was the morning of the September 11 attacks. By 6 p.m. on April 12 the EOC was open and city officials began showing up. By 7 p.m. the mayor had arrived. Kane locked the doors and got down to business.

It was decided that temporary service needed to be connected immediately. By Saturday morning, 19 splicers and a six-person line crew were on the bridge laying down temporary cables-100,000 wire splices were needed to get service back up by Monday.

Kane was the last to leave the EOC at 1 a.m., though the center remained operational until the next day.

11:00 p.m.

At Cindy Carlson’s apartment, Dino and Rose found out that they were thought to be the cause of the fire. It was first reported on the nightly news that two homeless people had argued and somehow started the fire. Later, that report was amended to vandals. But Carlson encouraged the two to write down a statement about where they were that afternoon. They wrote a one-page statement detailing their activities, which Carlson took to police.

The next day, Dino was allowed to go down to his former home under the bridge to collect some of his and Rose’s belongings, but there was nothing left to salvage. Besides the clothes and mattresses-a bed Dino insists kept him warm in weather as cold as minus 40 degrees-the two lost personal papers and gifts they bought for each other.

The police interviewed the two, but no arrests have been made since the fire and the investigation remains active.

...and after

Since the fire, Dino and Rose have stayed with friends while they figure out what to do. Both say that they don’t panhandle, and they are outside by choice.

“Shelters make me claustrophobic,” says Dino. “I’m not too comfortable being around a lot of people.”

Both say they are clean of drugs but not alcohol. Rose also says that they are going to open a bank account-they both have jobs-and plan to start saving money for their own apartment.

The reports that the fire was caused by homeless people have had repercussions. Manchester community police unit Sgt. Mike DiSabato says that several property owners in the Millyard and other locations around the city have called complaining about homeless camps set up on their property. As a result, police have stepped up patrols of these makeshift homes, moving people off private property.
“Naturally, if someone calls, we ask the homeless folks to remove their camps,” DiSabato says. “If they come back, we’ll arrest them or fine them. That doesn’t solve the problem though.”

The bridge fire in Manchester also inspired a homeless sweep in Covington, Ky., according to a news story in the Cincinnati Post.
At the city level, one update to the EOC that came out of the fire was better communication between city leaders and Manchester Community Television. Since the fire happened after work, no one at the EOC was able to access and operate the MCTV equipment to broadcast messages. Since the fire, several city department heads have been trained to operate MCTV from City Hall.

Verizon Wireless engineer Phillip Marineau said that once permanent repairs begin on the bridge, the company is considering preventing similar fires by running the lines on steel plating 30 feet out from where the bridge makes contact with the embankment. This would prevent anyone from tampering with exposed cables.

Like the faulty hydrants in the area near the bridge, one of every seven fire hydrants around the city is on private property. But oftentimes, it’s only when the fire department attempts to use a hydrant that they discover it doesn’t work. There is little the city can do about faulty hydrants on private property except fine property owners.

Finally, HTA Consulting Engineers of Manchester has made a preliminary assessment of fire damage to the Bridge Street Bridge, putting the cost at about $1.1 million, which includes fixing damage to the bridge’s concrete deck, minor damage to the bridge’s utility support beams and two girders, and major paint damage. The consulting firm recommends keeping the right lane and sidewalk barricaded in order to make a full evaluation of the structural integrity of the steel and of the steel components in the utility bays that burned.

Dan Szczesny can be reached at

outreach crew

the current UTB crew

Ben, newly sober, newly housed and highly spiritual, he believes that all people are children of God and deserving of shelter, safety, security, medical and food.
It is amazing to watch him interact with his peers and watch him grow in the process.

Paul, has been clean and sober almost a decade. He states that he is alcoholic and heroin addict. While he was never homeless in his life, he has had his share of challenges. He says he is looking for his sense of prupose.
He once owned an apartment building, though he lost it as a result of his addictions. He now lives in a small over-priced apartment and works daily to maintain his housing and his serenity.
When he first went out to the homeless camps he remarked " its like when I was a kid and I needed to isolate from my crazy family, the difference is when I got sick of being out there, I went back home"


Terry, has been clean and sober for over two years and believes that by working at a grassroots level, great things will and do happen. He feels a connection to our homeless brothers and sisters and hopes to be able to make a difference in their lives and grow even more spiritually.

Samatha is a college student from UNH she joined us in spring 2008 because she needed 15 hours of community service, she is long done her hours. She stated that working with the people is like caring for her granparents and and other relatives, and she was wholehearted saddened when a man she had developed a friendly relationship died that summer.
she says, ignorance was never really bliss, but now there is no going back.
We love her youthful enthusiasim.

Joe started out in the street right where he is serving now. He has a year and more of sobriety. He said he could easily romantize that it was like on the street, hot days and hard times in apartment, could make him think of the coolness by the river, but by attending to peers he not only keeps himself sober but he is a role model for others who knew him before.

Others come and join us on a drop by basis

and then there's me learning that consistency is essential to building trust.

death on the street

Our friend Joe was a diabetic Christian man who lived outside for the past 10 years. He found that he wasnt comfortable at the shelter because people used profanity. When I first met him he told me if I wanted to know who he was I would have to read the book of Job from the bible. He read the New Testament everyday and at Homeless Memorial Day vigils he sang "Amazing Grace"like an angel.

I wish that his story ended the way of Job when God returned him to renewal and prosperity. "And Job died being old and full of days" I do not know the ways of God, perhaps Joe lived to teach us compassion.

Joe was found in his camp, passed away on May 24th, 2008.
This picture was taken the year he went with us to "Gimme Shelter" a sleepout on the NH Statehouse.

The figures behind him are a visual representation of the persons who had already passed away in NH while homeless.

'Word was he died on the street'
Homeless to honor their friend 'Razor'
October 21, 2008
Monitor file Raymond “Razor” Luoma, who was homeless, died last week. He was well-known to other homeless people in Concord.

The homeless community will remember one of their own, Raymond "Razor" Luoma, at an event Friday night.
Luoma, 50, died last week. "The word was he died on the street," said the Rev. David Keller, pastor of First Congregational Church in Concord, which houses a winter shelter where Luoma had stayed.
The Monitor profiled Luoma last year. He had been homeless for most of his life. Keller said Luoma was a survivor of Eastern equine encephalitis and had been interviewed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "He wore that like a badge," Keller said. "He thought he was some kind of stuff for having CDC researchers talk to him."
He is survived by two daughters, a brother and a sister. A graveside service will be held at 11 a.m. today at Maple Grove Cemetery in Concord.
The American Friends Service Committee will include a memorial to Razor in its annual program Give Me Shelter, which will be held Friday night. The program will include a group of mostly high school and college students sleeping outside to dramatize the plight of the state's homeless population, said Arnie Alpert, the state's program coordinator for the AFSC. The group will set up about 4 p.m. in front of the State House, then will go to the Friendly Kitchen for dinner and return to the State House Plaza for a discussion that will include people


Photo By Preston Heller

Structural Causes of Homelessness

Structural Causes of Homelessness

Betty Reid Mandell
ALTHOUGH THERE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN some homeless people, their numbers increased dramatically during the Reagan Administration. The federal government cut back on building houses and subsidizing housing for low-income people as well as social assistance programs. Urban renewal and gentrification forced people out of low-rent housing, and wages declined with deindustrialization and outsourcing. Cities used land use policies to help corporations and real estate interests squeeze out the poor.

Even with low wages, many poor people could afford housing if they had access to government-subsidized public housing. However, the federal government has been cutting back on building housing and providing subsidies for housing since the early 1980s. There is a 5-year waiting list for Section 8 vouchers even in special circumstances such as disability or veterans, and no more are being given out. The federal government chose to subsidize private housing for poor people through Section 8 vouchers rather than build housing because it did not want to interfere with private real estate interests. Real estate interests have decimated rent control in most cities, as rents continue to rise beyond the ability of low-income people, and even middle-income people, to pay them.

Many homeless individuals will not go to a homeless shelter because they are crowded and dangerous. If there is no place to store belongings, they often are stolen. Some of the residents have emotional problems which are exacerbated, or caused by, their homelessness. To avoid these dangerous conditions, some people sleep in the streets, in parks, in their cars, RVs, or in train or bus stations. Some live in tents in the woods or build temporary shelters in out-of-the-way spaces in the city, which are often torn down by the city. Some homeless people prefer the freedom and privacy they have in their own encampments to rigidly controlled shelters.

Shelter programs are shaped by prevailing views of the poor, who are considered to be generally inadequate and incompetent and in need of reform.

In "A Roof Over my Head," Jean Calterone Williams expresses this well:
"By making many aspects of their programs mandatory . . . shelters give the impression that homeless people will not take the initiative on their own to look for work or housing, enroll their children in school, or keep their living spaces clean. They must be forced to do so. By mandating budgeting classes, shelters suggest that people become homeless in part because they are irresponsible with their money. It is in a sense a symbiotic relationship: shelter programs influence the ways housed people think about homelessness, the views of the housed public -- whether ordinary citizens or policymakers -- affect the formation of shelter programs and how such programs treat homeless people."

I AM BEMUSED by announcements that come over the radio from time to time by foundations or institutes saying they are studying the causes of homelessness and seeking cures.

In fact, the causes are quite simple and have been studied quite enough. Homelessness is caused by poverty, insufficient affordable housing and insufficient money to pay for housing, and a weak or nonexistent safety net of income maintenance and support services.

It is true that many of the homeless are alcoholics or drug addicts, but they need a home while they are coping with their problem, and they need treatment programs, and both are in short supply.

It is also true that many of the homeless have emotional problems. Who wouldn't have emotional problems if they were homeless? But they need a home while they are coping with their problems and they need support services. Both are in short supply.

A disproportionate number of foster children who have "aged out" of the foster care system are homeless.

A disproportionate number of veterans are homeless. It is the fault of the government that they are in this condition, but the government has deserted them.

A large percentage of homeless women have been abused. While they may need a temporary refuge to escape the abuser and counseling to help them heal, they also need permanent housing, childcare, a job that pays a living wage, and social supports.

The focus on individual problems shifts attention away from structural problems and obscures the real causes of homelessness. It leads to stereotyping of homeless people as deviant and degenerate, drunk or drugged, or crazy. When these stereotypes are embedded in people's minds, they view every beggar as a scammer.

Stereotyping leads to criminalizing the homeless, allowing cities to sweep them from the streets. It gives implicit permission to delinquent thugs to beat them up.

Stereotyping leads to ever-changing policies geared to fixing different target sub-populations of homeless people. There are "periodic calls for local homeless plans based upon the newest policy flavor (and) temporary and local responses to homelessness that fail to address its systemic causes."

"New words on the horizon, Shelter plus Care. Transitional Housing, Permanent supportive housing, work force housing. These words devalue people though they may get grant monies for them. They imply that the people need to be fixed and that the latter workforce housing, is the better deal for a community." Cindy Carlson

The public stereotypes become internalized by the homeless, causing them to try to distance themselves from the "undeserving Other," however they visualize the "Other."

I met many people in the welfare office who told me that they were "not like those others" who are lazy and don't want to work. I told one woman that what might look like laziness is actually depression, and she admitted that she was depressed.

Homeless men resist being categorized as "homeless" because that conjures up the image of a drunken bum.

Homeless women resist being categorized as "homeless" because that conjures up the image of a crazy disheveled "bag lady."

Battered women resist being described as "battered," preferring to see themselves as "survivors."

There is a hierarchy of deserving vs. undeserving in the public's mind. Battered women are seen as deserving because they are victims. Parents and children are more deserving than single men because children are innocent victims.

Homeless men are the least deserving, because they should be working. These images of the homeless help to shape the way shelters treat their residents and the way the residents view themselves.

Even though many women who have been victims of domestic violence are not in battered women's shelters, the women in battered women's shelters often see themselves as superior to homeless women in family shelters.

I end with this

In the book Poor peoples movements Piven and Cloward conclude:
One can never predict with certainty when the "heavings and rumblings of the social foundations" will force up large-scale defiance, although changes of great magnitude were at work. Who, after all, could have predicted the extraordinary mobilization of black people beginning in 1955? Nor can one calculate with certainty the responses of elites to mass disruption. There are no blueprints to guide movements of the poor. But if organizers and leaders want to help those movements emerge, they must always proceed as if protest were possible. They may fail. The time may not the right. But then, they may sometimes succeed.

lost and found

lost and found
joe and Razor dearly missed

Illegal to be homeless-we made the list
Meanest Cities

1. Little Rock, Arkansas
11. Sarasota, Florida
2. Atlanta, Georgia
12. Key West, Florida
3. Cincinnati, Ohio
13. Nashville, Tennessee
4. Las Vegas, Nevada
14. Berkeley, California
5. Gainesville, Florida
15. Dallas, Texas
6. New York City, New York
16. Fresno, California
7. Los Angeles, California
17. San Antonio, Texas
8. San Francisco, California
18. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
9. Honolulu, Hawaii
19. St. Paul, Minnesota
10. Austin, Texas
20. Manchester, New Hampshire

The Criminalization of the Homeless-Homes Not Jails

The civil rights of people experiencing homelessness are continually violated, whether it be by endangering their right to vote, by hate crimes committed against them, by denying children in homeless situations an equal right to education, and even by unjust laws making it illegal to be homeless. NCH is concerned about this illegal disenfranchisement of people experiencing homelessness, and the Civil Rights Project exists to protect the civil rights of people in homeless situations.

July 6, 2004 Union Leader Newspaper
Ex-homeless Mom named to state post

A local advocate for the homeless has been selected to serve as the state field coordintor for the National Coalition for the Homeless Civil Rights Organizing Project...The organizing Project seeks to stop policies and practices that discriminate against the homeless."

And so the work continues.

Manchester's City Ordinances Arbitrarily Used against Person’s Experiencing Homelessness

(B) Exemption: This section shall not apply to the area of a sidewalk encumbered by resturants

Public Urination

NH RSA 645:1, III
Indecent Exposure and Lewdness
Charged as a sex offender

CHAPTER 47 POWERS OF CITY COUNCILS Bylaws and Ordinances Section 47:17
47:17 Bylaws and Ordinances. – The city councils shall have power to make all such salutary and needful bylaws as towns and the police officers of towns and engineers or firewards by law have power to make and to annex penalties, not exceeding $1,000, for the breach thereof; and may make, establish, publish, alter, modify, amend and repeal ordinances, rules, regulations, and bylaws for the following purposes: I. IN GENERAL. To carry into effect all the powers by law vested in the city….XIII. VAGRANTS, OBSCENE CONDUCT. To restrain and punish vagrants, mendicants, street beggars, strolling musicians, and common prostitutes, and all kinds of immoral and obscene conduct, and to regulate the times and places of bathing and swimming in the canals, rivers and other waters of the city, and the clothing to be worn by bathers and swimmers…

Everyday people experienceing homelessness are ticketed for doing things outside that they would not have to do if they lived in their own homes.


Lawmaker wants to outlaw public peeing
Published: October 01, 2007
By The Associated PressCONCORD – A New Hampshire lawmaker says peeing in public exposes a flaw in the law.
Strange as it sounds, Democratic Rep. Stephen Shurtleff says making public urination a separate crime could really help people out.
Currently, there is no state law specifically addressing public urination; it's prosecuted under a patchwork of local and state laws, indecent exposure among them.
Shurtleff says because indecent exposure is a sex offense, multiple convictions could land habitual public urinators on a sex offender registry, a penalty he feels is too severe for the crime.
"I think some of the stigma attached to that is greater than the offense," he said. "It's public urination, and they should be charged with it."
As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, Shurtleff, of Concord, is working to rewrite New Hampshire's sex offender laws to comply with a new federal law. Under federal law, those convicted of indecent exposure twice in three years would be forced to register as sex offenders.
Shurtleff said he will push for a law making public urination a misdemeanor.

NH has acute shortage of housing stock 2009
NH has an acute shortage of housing stock, especially of housing (both for home ownership and for rental) affordable to households earning less than area median income. In the past decade we have built fewer than 900 new multifamily units, and some of those have been luxury apartments.
Rents in the southern half of the state have increased as much as 37% over the last 5 years. The state median rent is $978/month, and over $1000 per month in Manchester, Nashua and Portsmouth.
Based on projections from the NH Economic and Labor Market Information Bureau, 65% of new jobs will pay less than the state level "housing wage" of $18.81, the amount needed to afford a typical apartment.
6553 people were sheltered in NH's emergency shelters in FY03, but 13,529 were turned away because there were no available beds. That doesn't count the number of people doubled up with friends or family.

Because of HUD cuts in funding, the NH Housing Finance Authority, among others, have closed their waiting lists for Section 8 Housing Vouchers and will not be able to issue any new vouchers for the foreseeable future. This means that low income families do not have access to subsidies for their rent. where do they go now?
Because land cost and construction costs are so high in most of the state, new construction of affordable housing can generally only be done using various federally funded housing production programs (Low Income Housing Tax Credits, HOPE VI, Rural Housing, project based Section 8, etc.)