July 27. 2018 11:38PM

Manchester mayor: Police policy echoes city's philosophy, alerting social service agents when homeless camps must be cleared

By MARK HAYWARD
New Hampshire Union Leader


Debris remained after the city removed homeless encampments along the old rail bed behind Willow street in Manchester in April. The crackdown on camps is forcing homeless people to congregate elsewhere, leading to problems in residential areas of the city. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER FILE PHOTO)

MANCHESTER — Mayor Joyce Craig said city procedures call for offering services to homeless people when camps are targeted for removal.

“The intent is always to provide help to those who need it the most and treat all people with respect and dignity,” Craig said on Friday.

Craig spoke to a reporter after Manchester police provided a one-page letter, written by an outside social-service professional, and said it was city policy.

The policy was approved by Craig after a May 11 meeting with then Police Chief Nick Willard, Willard’s administrative assistant Kim Demers said in an undated email forwarded to the Union Leader by police.

After the Union Leader contacted Craig’s office and inquired about the policy and when it was adopted, Lt. Brian O’Keefe said the email reflects only city police policy. Craig agreed, but said the statement reflects ongoing city procedures anyway and nothing has changed.

The letter says that once the city targets a homeless encampment for removal, city officials must notify outreach workers from social service agencies. The city must give outreach workers 72 hours to contact homeless campers. And they must give the homeless campers a 10-day warning to move out.

The procedure is spelled out in a one-page, May 29 letter written by Erin Kelly, the chairman of the Manchester Continuum of Care, to Craig, Willard, and the city health department. The Continuum of Care comprises private social service agencies and government offices that concentrate on issues involving the homeless. Kelly is the long-time director of runaway and homeless youth for Child and Family Services.

“We recognize that there are, at times, significant reasons encampment residents must vacate,” the letter reads. “We also know that moving residents makes it more difficult for us to track individuals and build the trusting relationship it requires to engage them in services successfully.”

Craig said the letter reflects a meeting she held with Continuum of Care.

“We need to address public safety and care for people in the community and address any and all health concerns,” she said. “The ultimate goal is to get someone who is homeless into a home.”

mhayward@unionleader.com