Two of New Hampshire’s four congressional delegates said they have been in touch with local housing officials, following the homicide of two people in public housing apartments last week.
In Manchester, a resident of the Pariseau high-rise was beaten to death last week, which police allege occurred at the hands of an abusive boyfriend. In Concord, a man with a habit of welcoming the homeless and down-and-out into his apartment was found stabbed to death.
Residents of the public housing properties in both cities have said they don’t feel safe, citing the inability to place deadbolts and chain-link locks on their apartment unit doors; a prohibition against owning firearms; access to the building by homeless and unwanted guests; and tenants’ vulnerability to manipulation by outsiders.
“Incidents of violence in New Hampshire public housing buildings are concerning — no one should ever live in fear or feel endangered in their own home. We’ve been in touch with housing representatives and city officials on this matter and will continue monitoring the situation,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., said in a statement issued by her office.
First District Congressman Chris Pappas said his office is in direct communication with Manchester officials to determine if he can be of further assistance.
“I was deeply troubled by this tragic news and am grateful to local law enforcement and the Manchester Housing and Redevelopment Authority (MHRA) for acting to ensure residents remain safe,” Pappas, a Democrat, said in the statement.
He said he is committed to working with housing authorities in Manchester and other communities to make sure they have the resources needed to protect residents.
The Union Leader emailed requests for interviews to the four congressional delegates, mentioning specific issues such as housing able-bodied disabled people with the elderly; door locks; unwanted guests; gun ownership; and residents’ fears of speaking up. None agreed to interviews, but all issued brief statements.
Second District Congressman Annie Kuster, also a Democrat, said local housing authorities and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development should work together to ensure safety of public housing representatives. Kuster said she will monitor the situation and offer any help she can.
“My heart goes out to the Granite Staters who have lost loved ones to acts of violence and for residents of public housing buildings who should have the right to feel safe in their own homes,” Kuster said.
Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., also called for HUD and housing authorities to work together to hear and address safety concerns.
“No one — especially not our most vulnerable citizens — should fear for their safety in and around their home,” Hassan said.
On July 23, Jennifer Burpee, 45, was killed in her seventh-floor apartment at the Pariseau high-rise in Manchester. Her boyfriend, a self-described Nazi with a history of abuse allegations against Burpee, is charged with second-degree murder in her death. The 100-unit apartment is designated for the elderly and disabled.
Then on July 26, the body of Marshall John Villeneuve, 64, was found in his apartment at the seven-story Crutchfield Building, a Concord Housing and Redevelopment Authority building that also houses the elderly and disabled.
Manchester housing officials have said they want to include security guards in their upcoming budget.
Meanwhile, social justice group Granite State Organizing Project encouraged residents of high-rise buildings to contact the organization if they are interested in forming a tenant council. A tenant council has certain rights under federal law, and the council at the Elmwood Gardens family housing project in Manchester is very active, the organization said.
However, the GSOP said tenants of the elderly-and-disabled high-rises are often afraid to speak up because they cannot afford to live elsewhere if they get evicted. But GSOP housing advocate Viola Katusiime said the new MHRA director, Kathy Naczas, seems to be supportive of tenant organizing, which Katusiime says wasn’t the case with the previous director.