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NH voters say economy, high cost of living top of mind heading into primary election

Two people talk to each other in red booths at a diner with mic stands in front of them on the table.
Jackie Harris
NHPR's Morning Edition host Rick Ganley talks with Michelle Lennon, president of Archways, at the Tilt'n Diner.

NHPR has been talking with voters around the state about what's on their minds heading into the New Hampshire presidential primary. One issue we’ve heard a lot about is the high cost of living.

Local welfare administrators say housing prices, child care costs and inflation are driving an increase in Granite Staters seeking assistance for the first time.

To learn more, NHPR’s Morning Edition host Rick Ganley spoke with Michelle Lennon, president of Archways, an organization that offers supportive services to residents in Tilton.


Michelle, you've been seeing an increase in people who are coming to your agency for help, and many for the first time with living costs, right?

Yeah, that's absolutely true. Demographics we've never seen before.

What are those demographics?

We've always had people living in poverty that have come to us for assistance at different times, but we're often seeing working people with full time jobs coming now [who are] suffering from food insecurity, and the cost of housing [is] just driving them out of their homes for the first time.

Can you give me some idea of the people that are coming the first time, what they're telling you and why they're there?

Sure. We have somebody who works with us that owns a business. He's a personal trainer. His partner is a nurse. Never expected to experience the potential homelessness before, but with the post-COVID increase in real estate costs and things, people are cashing in. And in their case, they were facing an eviction due to somebody doing just that, and it took them almost three months to find housing because there's just such a push on the market.

We're seeing those kind of situations where it's just costly. You can't live out of hotels and still retain security deposits in your bank account, and then add that to the somewhat gentrification of certain areas with the cost of rents going up astronomically. In some cases, we're just seeing people that have had stable housing for 11 years, eight years, suddenly finding themselves in situations where they're living out of their cars.

So this is something that's not just happened since the pandemic. This is something that's been ongoing for a decade or so?

It's definitely been growing. We're seeing more and more people accessing our services or asking for advice, sometimes not necessarily engaging in services of like how to navigate this climate right now. We're seeing more and more people that, if they have a criminal record or credit history issues, things like that, they're living out of their cars. Sometimes we have families, six months [they are] looking for housing, sometimes even longer.

There's just not enough housing stock, and the stock that is, is being bought up?

Yeah, and it's costly. We have a young couple that stayed with their dad for no rent for about a year. It took them a year to find a place, and their rent is $1,900 a month. And she's in her 20s babysitting for a full time job, and he's working in landscaping right now, and it's almost impossible to get by.

What kind of help is making a difference or could make a difference for the people that are struggling to make ends meet in the region?

We've been fortunate because while we've seen the cost of electric rising and some other concrete needs, Franklin Savings Bank opened a Neighbors in Need fund that provided $100,000 worth of support to people, preventing their electric from getting turned off. In some cases, getting them fuel for their oil tanks to get them through last winter and stuff.

So some of that community outpouring has been essential in providing support. And we have been fortunate, we've had some concrete needs being met by funding from the Children's Trust, from New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, from private foundations trying to kind of help alleviate the present needs to help people get through.

So I imagine Archways, that's what you do. You take people case by case, find the services they need, put them in touch with the people that can help.

And the state is aware. Today, they're having a meeting with stakeholders regarding housing. And there's resources that they're trying to bring to bear to really address some of these really crisis needs.

Jackie Harris is the Morning Edition Producer at NHPR. She first joined NHPR in 2021 as the Morning Edition Fellow.

For many radio listeners throughout New Hampshire, Rick Ganley is the first voice they hear each weekday morning, bringing them up to speed on news developments overnight and starting their day off with the latest information.
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