HOPE Outreach Committee addressing housing insecurity in Manchester

Local nonprofit looks to tackle Manchester’s homelessness and affordable housing shortages
Back row left to right: Anthony Payton, Anthony Harris and Charleen Michaud; Front row: June Trisciani, Schonna Green and Andrea Choate

The HOPE (Housing Options Promote Empowerment) Outreach Committee is crafting plans to tackle both Manchester’s homelessness and lack of affordable housing crises. Headed by Manchester’s Director of Homeless Initiatives Schonna Green, the group has city representation in Alderman-at-Large elect June Trisciani, Welfare Director Charleen Michaud, Manchester Web Services Administrator Greg Duval and Library Director Denise M. van Zanten. Communities of faith, nonprofit social service agencies and local journalists are also represented.

Noticeably absent is committee attendance by businesspersons, realtors and contractors, but with incoming President of the New Hampshire Association of Realtors Adam Gaudet, owner of Concord’s 603 Birch Realty, identifying housing affordability as key to New Hampshire business growth, a connection will soon be established.

“Business is 100 percent invested in the community,” Green said. “This outreach committee believes in working collectively to help all citizens. No person is an island.”

“A lot of business owners have been affected by the lack of affordable housing and homelessness,” Green explained. “It’s fair that they have input and representation.”

The Federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Housing Trust Fund awarded $3.1 million to New Hampshire last April, earning this comment from Senator Jeanne Shaheen: “The lack of affordable housing in our communities is a serious challenge that has forced many Granite Staters to choose between paying their mortgage or rent and other necessities like food, utilities and medicine.”

Members of ABLE, a New Hampshire disability justice organization, were recently at the State House to push for accessible and affordable housing.

The Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved $2.3 million for development of 152 affordable housing units at an early December meeting, while the Manchester Housing and Redevelopment Authority, NeighborWorks  Southern New Hampshire and Waypoint have also received monies for affordable housing development.

The HOPE Distribution Center is expected to open on Maple Street in January. The emphasis will be on the housewares that a person or family needs to set up a home.

Green believes in accountability, pooling community resources so that services are not duplicated, and community-wide ownership of solutions to homelessness and the lack of low-income housing. HOPE will have an informative and educational brochure available in January with a QR code detailing appropriate services for those requesting them, as well as a snapshot of assistance an individual or family is already receiving, thus eliminating duplication of services. It will also serve as a tool to inform the public of HOPE and its mission: “Move people from harmful housing instability to beneficial housing stability.”

Green is drawing on what worked for her on Florida’s Treasure Coast where she parlayed a $7,000 Community Chest grant into 140 housing units for single mothers and senior women, a mix that benefits both populations, with residents now paying 75 percent of ongoing costs.

“It’s important that Manchester sustain and maintain an affordable housing trust,” Green said.

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