By NANCY WEST, InDepthNH.org
MANCHESTER – Two people who refused to leave the homeless encampment on the lawn of Hillsborough County Superior Court Friday were arrested and charged with trespassing, one of whom was rushed to the hospital.
Three others were issued summonses for illegal camping and a fourth person who was summonsed left the property, according to a news release issued jointly by the state departments of Health and Human Services, Justice and Safety at about noon.
“One of the individuals arrested was placed in an ambulance due to a medical issue, and subsequently, assaulted two ambulance personnel,” according to the joint statement.
The release doesn’t identify the people who were arrested or summonsed or whether they would be held in jail or bailed. About 30 troopers helped clear the site, which is on state property.
The state didn’t immediately respond to InDepthNH.org’s questions seeking further details about the people who were arrested.
The release made clear the exasperation state officials have felt over the past several months fielding complaints from Mayor Joyce Craig, neighboring businesses, the Court system and citizens over the 40 tents and homeless people.
“During the summer and fall, requests from local officials were made to remove the encampment due to safety concerns for those conducting business in the courthouse and repeated incidents affecting the physical condition of the courthouse building and surrounding property,” the release said.
And the dispute between Gov. Chris Sununu and Mayor Craig was also evidenced in the release.
“State officials will continue their attempts to engage the City of Manchester to encourage the City to discharge its legal duties to those within the City who require services,” the release said.
On Nov. 6, the state posted notices saying the campers had until Nov. 16 and since then there were rumors daily about imminent eviction but nothing happened until early Friday.
Mayor Craig release a statement Friday saying she had contacted local outreach teams, including the Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester, Families in Transition – New Horizons and the City Welfare Department who quickly mobilized teams to assist individuals.
“As a result, Families in Transition – New Horizons already filled all of their available beds with people being forcibly removed from the courthouse lawn, and we’re working to find any other options available,” Craig said.
“This eviction, uncoordinated with any local non-profit agencies or the City, will disconnect individuals from services they’ve been receiving for months. In the midst of a pandemic, when community spread is at an all-time high, the State is forcing people to move throughout the city with no place to go — putting the health and safety of those living unsheltered and all Manchester residents at risk. This action from the State is inhumane, causing trauma to individuals with nowhere else to go,” Craig said.
See full news release:
Over the past several months, the State of New Hampshire has received numerous requests from the City of Manchester, the Court system, neighboring businesses, legislators, and the County Attorney’s Office to remove the homeless encampment located on State property (Hillsborough County North Courthouse).
Each individual located there has repeatedly been offered alternative housing opportunities and other supportive services. Those efforts continued this week.
On November 19, officials from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services and local providers approached each one of individuals in the encampment and presented them with several options.
These options included housing with accompanying transportation offered by several providers across the state, transportation to stay with family or friends, or relocation to another encampment. Additionally, mental health and substance use disorder (SUD) services were also offered to any individual requesting that support. The State was successful in securing housing for every individual in the encampment in the event they wanted housing.
New Hampshire State Police Troopers, who are specially trained in mental health awareness and de-escalation as part of the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT), were onsite and assisted in these efforts this week. Each individual was informed that if they did not accept the State’s offer for alternative housing, they would be removed.
Because of those efforts, 27 individuals accepted services and left the encampment. The services were provided by the State of New Hampshire and not the City of Manchester, despite it being the City’s legal obligation under RSA chapter 165 to provide welfare services for those within the City.
Beginning at approximately 7:00 a.m. today, officials from the Department of Health and Human Services were again onsite to continue working with the individuals to move to alternative and safe housing opportunities. Again, individuals were informed that if they did not accept the State’s offer for services, they could either leave the property or would be removed. New Hampshire State Police Troopers were again present. At this time, 6 additional individuals accepted services, bringing the total number of individuals who accepted services to 33.
While individuals are not required nor can the State force them to accept such services, they were informed that they were required to leave the property. The State has worked patiently for five days beyond its original deadline for individuals to leave the property to help individuals secure services.
Those who chose not to leave were issued summonses for illegal camping, a violation-level offense under RSA 236:58-59. Three individuals were issued summonses and one individual who received only a summons left the property. The two other individuals who refused to leave the property were arrested and charged with criminal trespass under RSA 635:2. One of the individuals arrested was placed in an ambulance due to a medical issue, and subsequently, assaulted two ambulance personnel.
The Courthouse property will be secured by State Police. A cleaning crew has cleaned and cleared the property of any remaining items and debris. In addition, a fence is being constructed to ensure that the space remains clear. There will be no further camping permitted on the Courthouse property.
During the summer and fall, requests from local officials were made to remove the encampment due to safety concerns for those conducting business in the courthouse and repeated incidents affecting the physical condition of the courthouse building and surrounding property.
Services will remain available to the individuals who were at the encampment. State officials will continue their attempts to engage the City of Manchester to encourage the City to discharge its legal duties to those within the City who require services.