Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Homeless Camps in Concord Get a Temporary Reprieve

A couple of weeks ago, a group of homeless men were evicted from the area where they were living on land that is owned by the state. There's been a crackdown on homeless camps by the city for the last few months. 

The homeless population in Concord is estimated to be around 150. There is one homeless shelter with 26 beds. The math doesn't work. And some homeless folks aren't going to be eligible for a shelter, even if there were one the size of a hotel. 

Barbara Keshan, a lawyer for the NH CLU, was in court yesterday on behalf of 3 homeless men who are bringing a suit against the city, arguing that they can't be prohibited from camping on state owned land. 

The state is putting up no camping signs, and wanted the homeless camps to be vacated by the 24th. The judge gave a 10 day extension, saying that the state can't enforce evictions for 10 days, till the 30th, at which point they will be back in court again. 

A number of activists and members of the faith community gathered outside the courthouse yesterday afternoon, in support of the plaintiffs and the entire homeless community. Barbara Keshan spoke briefly about the dangers inherent in criminalizing a group of people based on their status: being poor and homeless. In the 1700's the city of Concord purchased a tract of land for a poor farm, recognizing that poor, homeless people had to go somewhere. 

A man known as "Stretch" asked, "If the cops want us gone, why do they keep giving us summons, so that we can't leave?" 

Why, indeed. 

These people have to live somewhere. They are among the most vulnerable in our society. Can we resolve this in a kind and compassionate way? 

Prayer for Homeless People

Hear our prayer today for all women and men, boys and girls who are homeless this day.
For those sleeping under bridges, on park benches, in doorways or bus stations.
For those who can only find shelter for the night but must wander in the daytime.
For families broken because they could not afford to pay the rent.
For those who have no relatives or friends who can take them in.
For those who have no place to keep possessions that remind them who they are.
For those who are afraid and hopeless.
For those who have been betrayed by our social safety net.
For all these people, we pray that you will provide shelter, security and hope.
We pray for those of us with warm houses and comfortable beds
that we not be lulled into complacency and forgetfulness.
Jesus, help us to see your face in the eyes of every homeless person we meet
so that we may be empowered through word and deed,
and through the political means we have,
to bring justice and peace to those who are homeless.  Amen.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There are so many examples of betrayal in this the greatest nation on earth. We SHOULD have the world's greatest functioning social services network, a functioning middle class, health care for all, and the greatest education system on the planet. We have NONE of these things. Homelessness is a symptom of a sick nation and although every country in the world has homeless individuals, many, particularly Scandinavian countries, handle the issue in a far more caring and dignified way. That these people clearly have no shelter and no one to help them is appalling.