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N.H. homelessness numbers up since 2016

By MATHEW PLAMONDON - Staff Writer | Dec 20, 2018

NASHUA – In excess of 4,000 New Hampshire children age 18 or younger are homeless, a figure reflecting an increase of more than 21 percent since 2016.

Data released Wednesday by the New Hampshire Coalition to End Homelessness, a Manchester-based nonprofit organization, indicate the overall number of homeless people in the state now stands at 1,450. That is approximately a 10 percent jump from the 1,317 who found themselves in this predicament two years ago.

“Despite the increasing need, these numbers also remind us that ending homelessness in New Hampshire is possible,” coalition Director Cathy Kuhn said upon releasing the report. “It is true that thousands of New Hampshire citizens are touched by homelessness each year; however, unlike in other parts of the country, our numbers are not insurmountable. With continued dedication and renewed investment, we can end this problem in our state.”

On the positive side, the state saw a minor decline in homelessness from 2017 to 2018, going from 1,456 individuals down to 1,450. However, as previously stated, the 2018 total of 1,450 is up from 1,317 in 2016.

Areas of Concern

In Nashua, the homeless problem continues to be obvious. On Wednesday, The Telegraph found the remnants of a homeless encampment at Mines Falls Park. In this general vicinity last month, U.S. Army veteran Harold Sherman had been living in a tent.

Shortly thereafter, officials at Harbor Homes Inc. helped Sherman find an apartment. However, based on the data, it seems unlikely Sherman was the only one to recently find himself in these circumstances.

In terms of overall homelessness, Hillsborough County now features 715 people fitting this definition, an increase from 700 in 2016.

Of these 715 people, the coalition lists 347 families as being homeless, meaning a family of at least one adult and one child.

The 347 statistic is up from 313 two years ago.

In 2017, the city of Nashua received certification from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for effectively ending veteran homelessness within Greater Nashua. The coalition defines Greater Nashua to include Nashua, Brookline, Amherst, Hollis, Merrimack, Milford, Mont Vernon, Hudson, Litchfield and Mason.

However, Hillsborough County also includes New Hampshire’s largest city – Manchester – and areas to the north and west of Nashua. Information released Wednesday shows there are 108 homeless veterans in Hillsborough County and 143 for New Hampshire as a whole. Both numbers are up from 2016.

New Hampshire saw 4,043 homeless public school students age 18 or younger in 2018. This is an increase from 3,350 in 2016. The report states individual county numbers were unavailable at the time of its completion.

Perhaps the most eye-opening number in the report when looking at the entire state is a 3,400 percent – yes, 3,400 percent – increase in the number of unsheltered homeless people in Belknap County from 2016 to 2018.

The report defines unsheltered homelessness as someone living in a tent, car or something else not meant for human habitation. The county, home to Laconia, only saw one person fit this category in 2016, but the 2018 number is 35.

Areas of Promise

In contrast to the situation in Belknap County, Hillsborough County has significantly reduced its number of unsheltered homeless since 2016. There are now 32 individuals fitting this definition in New Hampshire’s largest county, a number that is down from 69 two years ago.

Also in Hillsborough County since 2016, there has been a 64 percent decline in chronic homelessness. The HUD defines those experiencing chronic homelessness as “individuals and families who have experienced long episodes of homelessness or numerous episodes over a long period of time and who suffer from a long term disabling condition.”

Michael Reinke is the executive director at the Nashua Soup Kitchen & Shelter. Reinke, who has over 20 years of experience with helping the homeless community, said it is awesome to see some of the areas of improvement.

“Any progress we can make is good – we want to applaud any progress,” Reinke said about the positive trend in certain categories.

Reinke did, however, mention that he and others working toward ending homelessness are well aware of the areas trending in the wrong direction, especially student homelessness.

For her part, Kuhn maintains an optimistic outlook.

“New Hampshire is in a unique position to become the first state in the nation to end homelessness among all of our citizens. Reaching this goal will require that every community understand the many ways in which safe and affordable housing impacts their social and economic health and wellbeing,” she said.

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