For now, no more breakfasts in Manchester's Veterans Park
By TED SIEFER New Hampshire Union Leader
MANCHESTER — The leader of a church group that has sought to serve breakfast to the homeless in Veterans Memorial Park appears to have backed away from the request for now.
Bill Sullivan, who heads "Do you know Him? Ministries," told Chief of Parks Peter Capano and Mayor Ted Gatsas in a meeting Tuesday that he was willing to continue using the Salvation Army to serve the breakfast for the time being, according to the two officials.
"He was comfortable staying there. We believe everything is set on this issue,” Capano told the Committee on Administration later on Tuesday.
Sullivan was not present at the committee meeting or at a later full board meeting. He told a Union Leader reporter Tuesday night that he had no comment.
The decision by the Parks Division to deny a permit to the group to use Veterans Park to serve the breakfast sparked an outcry, with some charging that the city was turning its back on its neediest residents.
The group had been allowed to serve the breakfast on weekend mornings last year.
Several dozen residents packed the City Hall chamber on Tuesday to protest the decision.
“We live in a large city — 300 people coming to a breakfast, that's just a drop in the bucket,” Mike Porter said during the public comment period of the aldermen's meeting. “There are some who stigmatize the homeless, that they’re mentally ill or alcoholics. But there’s another segment. They’re people who’ve lost their jobs, they’re living two to three families to an apartment. This issue of putting them outside the main park in the city, it’s like putting a blanket on the homeless.”
Nancy Irlbacher said, “We don’t want to introduce any other venue that's going to cost taxpayers any more money. This ministry gives the homeless the ability to eat. Homelessness is not Monday through Friday. It happens on the weekends too,” she said.
Several aldermen pressed Capano at the earlier committee meeting on why the permit was denied in the first place.
“One of the basic responsibilities of all of us is feeding families,”
said Alderman-At-Large Dan O'Neil. “I don’t understand if they could use Arms Park, why not this one?”
Capano confirmed that concerns had been raised by the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, which operates a Welcome Center at the park.
“We talked to the chamber. We had a meeting at the Welcome Center. In general there are concerns about wear and tear at the park. There are homeless who make their homes there, if you will. There are issues that there’s a lack of restrooms, especially after hours,” he said.