City and police officials in Manchester are reporting an increase in the city's homeless population.
The organization Families in Transition - New Horizons works to provide services to homeless people in Mancehster. This includes temporary shelter or housing.
Cathy Kuhn is the vice president of research and training for Families in Transition - New Horizons. She spoke with NHPR's Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley about what she's seeing as a result of the increase in homelessness in Manchester.
(Editori's note: below is a partial transcript from the NHPR interview. It has been light edited for clarity.)
Has New Horizons had to change its approach in providing services to keep up with the demand?
Yes, I mean, we are continually working to make sure that our staff are as highly trained as they possibly can be. So we're seeing the increased numbers, but the other thing that is concerning is that we've seen sort of an increase in some problematic behaviors among the population. And part of that we feel is stemming from a switch in the type of substances that people are using. So while opioids is still something that we see very commonly at the shelter, we also are seeing increased number of people using methamphetamines and spice. And so our staff are trying to manage different behaviors than what they've seen in the past.
What would you attribute this increase, though, to it? Does it seem that most of these people are coming from outside the city or are they coming from other parts of the state or other states?
All of the above. I think it's really a complex issue, right? And so there are a lot of different factors that are contributing to this increase. I think the one that we cannot forget about and one that is often not talked about is the fact that we have a significant lack of affordable housing in all areas of our state. And in Hillsborough County, the vacancy rate is less than 1 percent. So when rents are continuing to increase and vacancy rates are continuing to go down, people cannot find housing on the private market. And so that, you know, of course, is going to lead to increased numbers of homelessness across our state, not just in Manchester.
Why specifically do you think they're coming to Manchester, though? There is an affordable housing problem throughout the state. But why in Manchester specifically are we seeing that increase in homelessness?
Yeah, I mean, I think that New Horizons is the largest emergency shelter in the state. And so when the shelters are full and in other areas of the state, they do often get referred to the New Horizons emergency shelter. And, you know, we obviously do our best to take in anyone who comes to our door, but we don't think that it's in the best interests of those who are experiencing homelessness to be sort of shipped around the state and really sort of torn away from where their natural resources might be like supportive families and friends and, medical providers and potential employment.
I think the other thing is that there's a perception that people can access treatment more quickly for substance use disorders in Manchester, either through Granite Pathways or Safe Station. Whether that's true or not, I think the perception is out there. So that may also be driving people into the city.