Alderman Keith Hirschmann Called for Using State Armory to Shelter Homeless in 2001
Manchester, NH — Alderman Keith Hirschmann, during his first stint representing Ward 12, called for the use of the State Armory to house the homeless at a December 18, 2001 meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen‘s’ Finance Committee. A Republican, Alderman Hirschmann pointed out that such an action would require then-Governor Jeanne Shaheen to officially declare that the Queen City’s homeless situation was an emergency.
Just as in 2020, the Queen City was struggling with the onset of the freezing temperatures of winter, which put Manchester’s homeless population at risk.
Nineteen years later, history is reporting itself. The State of New Hampshire’s National Guard Armory is seen by many as the best place to house an emergency homeless shelter. However, Governor Chris Sununu and state agencies aren’t cooperating.
The State Armory is the home of the New Hampshire National Guard. In March and April of 2020, it hosted a mobile COVID 19 testing site. New Hampshire National Guard members have been used for mobile testing at many sites throughout the Granite State.
A statement issued by the City of Manchester’s Emergency Operations Center said that the Armory’s mobile test site closure was, in part, due to “shortages in available personal protective equipment and testing swabs and the need to clean and service equipment at the testing site.”
Grounds of Refusal
Starting in July 2020, Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig requested the use of the Armory to house the homeless, but all of her three appeals to the state for the site to be used as an emergency shelter were refused. The initial reason given was that the Armory was needed for training.
Now that Governor Chris Sununu won reelection, pundits claiming his landslide was rooted in his reputation for deftly handling the coronavirus pandemic (a rather questionable honor in light of the Granite State having the highest rate among the states of senior deaths and nursing home fatalities caused by COVID 19 — a reputation seemingly based on the fact that Sununu didn’t behave like Donald Trump), the fresh grounds for refusal are the Armory’s proposed use as a distribution center for a COVID 19 vaccine.
The state also refused the city’s request to shelter the homeless in an unused section of the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services’ Sununu Center, which is the state’s juvenile detention facility. The unused space had been used Granite Pathways to treat people suffering from substance abuse and mental illness. That refusal was made on the grounds that there were juveniles living next to the unused building.
According to Mayor Craig, the state recently suggested that Manchester could set up a climate controlled tent in the State Armory parking lot, a plan of action the city already had considered but was wary of, due to its $1 million cost. The state also has suggested the use of hotel vouchers to house the homeless, a plan that Manchester’s Families in Transition, a non-profit organization dedicated to aiding the homeless, rejected due to questions of liability.