Homeless handshake

Mr. Renaud, a resident of the Econocamp homeless camp, shakes hands with Manchester police officer John Levasseur on Wednesday.

A handful of holdouts at the Econocamp homeless camp in Manchester were wondering whether Wednesday would be their eviction day.

Several were quietly milling around and some were sleeping when a reporter visited the camp, which is sandwiched between the Merrimack River and Interstate 293, on Wednesday morning.

Last week, state officials had posted notices saying that camping was prohibited on the land and any property must be removed by Tuesday or would be thrown out.

“The city is totally against us and I don’t know why,” said a resident who identified himself as Mr. Renaud. He said he and three friends will try to find another place to live if they are kicked out.

State officials have stressed that they are clearing the camp at the behest of Manchester city officials.

For the past several years, Manchester has cleared the homeless from city-owned property. But starting this year, they have started to tolerate small camps as long as they do not cause problems, aren’t a health or safety issue, and allow access to outreach workers, the city’s director of homelessness, Schonna Green, has said.

Green said the camp, which motorists can glimpse from the southbound Second Street entrance ramp to I-293, is a safety hazard because residents sometimes cross the ramp to access the camp.

A well-worn footpath to access the camp is on a grassy right-of-way separated from the highway by a guardrail.

Because the camp is on state Department of Transportation land, state workers would have to be involved in any cleanup. In the past, that has been DOT crews and New Hampshire State Police.

On Wednesday morning two Manchester police officers walked through the camp, but said they were looking for stolen items and would not be involved in any eviction.

Also on hand was a volunteer with a rented a U-Haul van who said he would use it to drive residents and their gear wherever they wanted to go.

Renaud said homelessness is a problem that the entire country is grappling with and that it is tied to poverty, mental illness, sickness and addiction.

He said he chooses to be homeless so he can help others. But he also said it is difficult to find an apartment.

He has back problems and has applied for Social Security disability.

Renaud also has problems finding an apartment because of a criminal history that includes 23 years behind bars.

“Me being locked up for so long, Mother Earth is my home,” he said.