By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – After a breakfast meeting at the Council on Housing Stability Wednesday, the Executive Council approved a number of contracts focused on helping people with their housing needs.
Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington, D-Concord, said we don’t have an accurate count “but we do know there are hundreds without a warm and safe place to live and the number is growing.”
She noted a recent vigil of the names of those who died this past year as homeless in the state and there were 48 names on the list. She offered a few names and a brief summary of the lives they lived.
“As we return to our homes tonight,” Warmington asked all to remember those who are homeless “with a commitment to do whatever we can to end homelessness.”
At the meeting at the Governor and Executive Council at the State House, funds were approved to help the problem and housing crisis activists were recognized.
A commendation was given to the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness.
“They’re great partners in this effort with the city and state. They get results and we were honored to recognize their work at today’s Council meeting! THANK YOU!” Sununu tweeted after the meeting.
Karen Jenks of the coalition said their steering committee works together on a continuum of care, connecting people to services.
Gov. Chris Sununu said the 1 percent vacancy rate for apartments in New Hampshire is exacerbating the problem, though efforts are underway to expand housing.
He said groups like the coalition are making an important contribution to solving the problem.
$3.5M FOR EMERGENCY RENTAL ASSISTANCE
The council approved $3.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act Emergency Rental Assistance funds for use in the New Hampshire Emergency Rental Assistance Program.
The DHHS Division of Economic & Housing Stability asked for and received renewal of a contract with the Institute for Community Alliances of Des Moines, Iowa, to expand the operation and maintenance of the NH Statewide Homeless Management Information System to include the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program.
The council also authorized a retroactive sole source contract with Waypoint of Manchester for $353,209, to provide Rapid Re-Housing programs, which deliver rental assistance and supportive services to youth, ages 18 to 24, who are experiencing homelessness, or are at imminent risk of homelessness, with the option to renew for up to five additional years.
Another contract was approved with Waypoint for $234,308 for a host homes project, a short-term community and volunteer-based response to youth homelessness, as part of the Balance of State Continuum of Care specifically targeting youth 18 through 24 years of age in Strafford and Merrimack counties.
CASS ON RAIL
A contract to study rail transit connecting Nashua and Manchester to commuter rail service into Massachusetts was not extended by the council and now is waiting to receive what could be completed for the report.
It was discussed and Bill Cass, Commissioner of Transportation, said the department has received the consultant data and is now editing the 85-page report and trying to put together an executive summary on rail in the next week.
The council voted down an extension on the contract previously.
Warmington, who supported an extension, said they had the authority to spend the money, they just did not have time to complete it.
Cass said the contractor worked very hard the past month to complete the deliverables.
Warmington expressed her gratitude that the consultant worked to get as much done in the contracted time frame and that customarily, the council does give such extensions due to work shortages and the pandemic.
FOOD INSECURITY IN COOS COUNTY
Councilor Joe Kenney, R-Wakefield, expressed frustration that there is a lack of food distribution for those who need it in Coos County.
Sununu said the council gave $1 million in federal CARES Act funds for such distribution and it was given back.
He said to keep everything in terms of food distribution focused in Manchester is “tough” because there is a statewide need.
Kenney said there is a lack of leadership.
The council approved additional funds for a contract with Partnership for Public Health, Inc., Laconia to expand social isolation reduction strategies to prevent mental, emotional, and physical decline for individuals 60 years of age and older, who identify as home-based, or who are otherwise socially isolated.
It also approved a contract for transportation services to support older adults and disabled individuals statewide.
Kenney said during the pandemic, many seniors were removed from their regional senior centers and that impacted many who relied on them for socialization and nutrition. He said he didn’t see a lot of data on the subject to support it.
This contract, he was told, will help connect people. Technology is a barrier for the elderly and this funding is intended to help. He was also told that senior centers are reopening and there is better connectivity for seniors.
SUPPORT FOR UKRAINE AND AFGHAN RESETTLEMENT
The council authorized $533,883 in federal funds to help the state Department of Health and Human Services to provide cash and medical assistance to Afghan and Ukrainian populations in New Hampshire.
This was a measure approved by the legislative Fiscal Committee on Jan. 27.
Additionally, the council approved a sole source contract with the Manchester School District for academic and social support to newly arrived Afghan students and their parents.
A third contract was approved which was an amendment to an existing contract to promote and address the health and well-being of refugees resettled in New Hampshire.
COUNTY NURSING HOME HELP
Three contracts were approved to help county nursing homes in Belknap, Carroll, and Merrimack counties to reduce the chance of the spread of COVID-19.
Belknap County Nursing Home in Laconia will receive $608,400 in American Rescue Plan Act State Fiscal Recovery Funds as part of the County Nursing Home Infrastructure Program.
Carroll County Nursing Home in Ossipee will receive a similar grant in the amount of $855,801 and Merrimack County Nursing Home in Boscawen will receive $446,139.
LOCAL RESTAURANT AID
As part of the federal COVID-19 relief funds, grants to help restaurants were approved Wednesday.
The grants total $148,205 from the $3,000,000 in American Rescue Plan Act State Fiscal Recovery Funds. The funds are designed to help address workforce issues and overall restaurant safety challenges experienced by small, locally-owned restaurants across the state.
A NEW DRUG ON THE STREET
Executive Councilor Ted Gatsas, R-Manchester, said there is a new drug on the street, a tranquilizer for animals that if ingested by humans eats the skin.
He said several people have died recently in Manchester and “I bet that is what it was.”
He said he has heard reports the drug is being cut and used in fentanyl in Philadelphia.
Robert Quinn, commissioner of Safety said the drug, xylazine, was first seen in use in Puerto Rico. It was approved by FDA as a sedative for animals and is being used as a cut for fentanyl.
Naloxone, used to reverse a fentanyl overdose, won’t work on this drug, he said.
“What we are trying to do is to get ahead of it,” Quinn said. “It is dangerous.”
Gatsas said the only thing we can do is send the message: “Don’t do it.”
“It eats the flesh. It’s awful.”
Sununu said the state has just launched the “No Safe Experience” campaign designed to warn all against street drugs and it has to be a constant message.
NOMINATIONS RESIGNATIONS AND CONFIRMATIONS
Ann Landry was confirmed as an assistant commissioner to the state Health and Human Services Department.
Melissa Moriarty was confirmed to the state’s Human Rights Commission.
Councilor Warmington said she is a wonderful choice.
Pat Griffin was confirmed to the University System of New Hampshire Board of Trustees.
Resignations were accepted including Paul Holloway of Rye from the Community College System Board of Trustees.
Councilor Janet Stevens, R-Rye, said Holloway has been a champion of the community technical college system.
Sununu agreed, thanked Holloway and noted he “has been in the trenches a long time.”
Nominations from the governor included James Boffetti as deputy attorney general.