NH Homeless Lawsuit dropped - Concord to pay hotels when shelters

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Sat, 25 Dec 1999 18:52:58 -0800 (PST)


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FWD  Associated Press - AP Wire Service - Dec 24, 1999 01:31

     LAWSUIT OVER HOUSING THE HOMELESS DROPPED

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) _ The city has agreed to help homeless people
find and pay for hotel rooms when emergency shelters are full,
according to a settlement reached with New Hampshire Legal
Assistance.

Legal Assistance lawyer Elliot Barry filed the lawsuit in July
on behalf of two homeless women with children who said they were
denied help when no shelter space was available.

He said the settlement, which was reached last week, was an
improvement over Concord's former policy, which failed to make it
clear that the city would pay for hotel rooms.

But Joan Callahan, the city's director of human services, said
the settlement is a clarification, not a change in policy.

``This (lawsuit) was all about communication,'' she said. ``We
put (the homeless) in hotels and motels with money given by the
churches of Concord. New Hampshire Legal Assistance didn't know
that.''

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Jessica Huntley, a single
mother of two, and Cynthia Shea, who has three children.

Huntley spent five weeks searching for an apartment in Concord
after city officials offered her up to $600 toward her first
month's rent. When she didn't find anything, city officials told
her to pitch a tent somewhere she wouldn't be caught, the lawsuit
said.

Shea was told the city would help her if she and a friend rented
a place in Gorham, but was offered nothing beyond that, the lawsuit
said.

Barry said neither woman was offered hotel accommodations,
despite Callahan's insistence the city makes that option available.

``It is the practice and policy of (Concord) not to pay for
homeless persons to be housed in a motel, hotel or other commercial
establishment offering temporary housing,'' Barry wrote in the
lawsuit.

The settlement still must be approved by the court.

Meanwhile, organizations that help house the city's homeless are
working to expand their services, hoping to reduce the number of
people turned away from shelters.

Prompted by the Legal Assistance lawsuit, the agencies are
meeting regularly to keep each other updated about what services
are available. And the Salvation Army is adding bed space to its
office building, which is next door to its shelter.

Judy Scothorne of the Community Action Program for Belknap and
Merrimack counties said she doesn't think city and community
officials are aware of the extent of the problem.

``In New Hampshire, homelessness is not as apparent as in cities
like Los Angeles, where it's warm and you see people living on the
street in a cardboard box,'' she said.

``Our homeless can't do that. Our homeless are hidden in vacant
buildings where it is not as cold,'' she said. ``They are not as
visible.''

AP-ES-12-24-99 0231EST
Received  Id AP9935824CE910A on Dec 24 1999 01:31

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