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Democratic Mayors Fight to Protect People Experiencing Homelessness While Governor Sununu Fails

In case you missed it, eight Democratic mayors from all over the Granite State signed a letter to Governor Sununu demanding he takes action to protect New Hampshire’s unhoused population this winter — calling for an immediate increase in emergency shelter beds statewide, additional shelter for women, medical respite for unhoused individuals released from the hospital, and more beds for homeless youth.


The signers of the letter were Mayor Joyce Craig of Manchester, Mayor Jim Donchess of Nashua, Mayor Paul Grenier of Berlin, Mayor Dana Hilliard of Somersworth, Mayor Jo Brown of Franklin, Mayor Dale Girard of Claremont, Mayor Bob Carrier of Dover, and Mayor Andrew Hosmer of Laconia.


A bipartisan group of mayors across New Hampshire sent a similar letter in 2020, but Governor Sununu has still failed to deliver any results.

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Excerpts



Mayors from eight cities – from Berlin to Manchester to Claremont, Somersworth and beyond – have again appealed to Gov. Chris Sununu for help assisting unhoused people after a tragic holiday week that saw two homeless people die and a woman give birth in a tent during freezing cold weather.


“The state of New Hampshire’s systems of care for individuals experiencing or at-risk of homelessness are not meeting the needs of communities across the state and are contributing to a statewide homelessness crisis,” the mayors wrote in a joint letter Tuesday.



[Manchester Mayor Joyce] Craig made several specific requests in the letter, including using an unused, state-owned building at 15 Brook St. as an emergency shelter for women

"Homelessness has been an issue for decades," Craig said. "Manchester runs health care for the homeless. We've had that contract for 40 years. But I would say right now, we are seeing more people living outside than we have before."



"We can't do it alone," Craig said. "We need the collaboration and assistance from the state in order to best meet the needs of the individuals who are homeless right now."



The letter faults Sununu on several points. It states he would not meet with mayors to discuss the loss of emergency rental assistance and has not improved collaboration with cities following the November 2020 letter.


"Municipal leaders are working to provide support to every Granite Stater experiencing homelessness in our cities," the letter concludes, "but the State and County governments need to share a common commitment to ending homelessness statewide."



“The state hasn’t offered up any leadership,” [Laconia Mayor Andrew] Hosmer said in an interview Tuesday. “The state has taken in billions of federal dollars in COVID relief money ... and the biggest issue facing the city is homelessness.”



Notably, according to the letter, the cost to provide emergency shelter is about $45 per person per day, while the state provides $8 per person per day.


When municipalities don’t receive funding and support from the state, “the costs get downshifted onto the backs of taxpayers” and add stress to city services, Hosmer said.


NHPR: NH mayors call for more state action on homelessness crisis The mayors’ letter specifically criticized Sununu for not doing more to respond to an earlier letter from all 13 of the state’s mayors in 2020, in which they asked him to establish a state-wide collaborative effort for addressing homelessness.


“Two years have passed since this letter was received, and there has been no improvement in collaboration with local communities in addressing homelessness in New Hampshire,” the mayors’ latest letter reads.


Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig, who was the main author of the letter, said the state’s inadequate care systems have exacerbated the housing crisis across the state.

“There are gaps that need to be addressed in terms of providing services for substance use disorder, for mental health, for medical issues and severe trauma that individuals are suffering with,” Craig said. “We need the state to recognize that and provide opportunities from a statewide perspective for these individuals.”


Manchester Ink Link: Craig joins with other NH mayors calling on Sununu, statewide officials to solve homelessness crisis “Building more affordable, and supportive housing is a long term solution, but with winter upon us, the State of New Hampshire’s housing and homelessness crisis is reaching a tipping point. State government and local communities need to collectively work towards sustainable, evidence-based solutions that not only address our ongoing housing shortage, but also meet the immediate and dire needs of New Hampshire’s unsheltered population. The only way to save the lives of some of the most vulnerable New Hampshire residents is through collaboration, transparency, and accountability.”

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