All photos by Ronnie Abbott
Every day we see the same homeless population in Rotary Park or in the cemetery, sitting next to knocked over tombstones. It’s been this way in the City of Laconia for a few years now and every year it seems to keep getting worse. As each year passes, the tensions rise within the local community as citizens begin to grow more frustrated with the behavior.
Now, it is 2022 and we have parts of this unhoused community sitting in the park smoking meth while other locals attempt to take a stroll through with their children. Naturally, over time, this begins to create a warzone in the online world that as of last week also spilled out into reality with someone directly confronting members of this homeless community for allegedly stealing bikes. Last year, homegrown vigilante types were tearing down tents and throwing away belongings. It’s a quandary, as I love seeing the community sticking up for each other and stopping the illegal activities such as meth smoking and investigating bike thefts. However the other edge of that same sword is the fact that over 300 other unhoused people that are being forgotten, in my estimation, because the housed do not want to help these thirty some odd outliers who hang out in Rotary Park. So the big question is, what do we do? How do we help the ones that want help that are not among the few bad apples? The forums being put on for the community is attempting to find a solution to that question.
These forums start off with a video showing us how people end up homeless and honestly it’s eye opening to know that it’s not all drugs, booze, and mental disorders causing it. According to the National Coalition For The Homeless website (https://nationalhomeless.org/about-homelessness/) the main issues that can be attributed to the homelessness problem are as follows:
As we can see in the photo the vacancy rate for Belknap County is current 0.7%. To break that down to simple numbers, for every 1,000 apartments that exist in the county only 70 are available to rent thus creating a shift in the supply and demand dynamic that normally keeps rents lower. Combined with higher taxes on landlords who have now pushed local rents up to compensate. Recently seen was a two bedroom apartment in Franklin going for $2,200 – $2,500. These rent increases put us $700 – $900 higher than the average rental cost in all of New Hampshire according to the 2022 Residential Rental Cost Survey that was put together by NHHousing.Org.
It takes a person making $25 an hour to afford a local two bedroom apartment before this latest uptick which put some of those rents at the $2,200+ mark. It’s easy to see why people are falling into such poverty that they are not able to pay rent. Over the past four years we have seen the amount of working Americans with no savings at all go from 3% to 10%. Truly those living paycheck to paycheck are feeling a lot more hard times. Some communities are working to try and get industry with higher pay rates, but sadly that’s just causing a cost-of-living increase in those areas as everything costs more to sell and as such costs more to buy. The easy and simple answer of “just pay everyone more” isn’t feasible as a true solution to the poverty causing homelessness issue. Given the cost of medical procedures, one hospital trip these days could be enough to cause a week-to-week person to start a downward spiral leading to eventual homelessness.
“Approximately 16% of the single adult homeless population suffers from some form of severe and persistent mental illness (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 2005).” I will not make any friends by saying this but in my honest opinion one of the biggest factors locally is how money hungry our local mental health institutions have become. From my experience and from my discussions with others in the same predicament, these healthcare institutions make you see two or more people to get help, and in most cases it has shown to be no less than three people in order to charge you for the most they can. They could take the time to try and streamline their own processes, to make things more efficient and cheaper but it’s clear that it’s more profitable to leave it as it is. Once again, the people who need it most cannot afford it and this increases the risk that they end up being on the streets. They’ll then receive even worse treatment but this time on every taxpayer’s dime. The process they use is a burden on the people who need help and this translates on down to the taxpayers.
As we are all aware, addiction is a major cause of homelessness. When people get to a point that they can no longer control themselves, a fix is more important of a need than paying their rent. It is also well known that those in the “on-the-street” population of the unhoused tend to be drug addicted. What was not known to me prior to these forums and not known to most others is the fact that 66% of those drug addicts we see in Rotary Park never had an addiction problem before becoming homeless. That’s a scary fact to know, as we look down on these people that almost 7 out of every 10 people who end up on the street end up with a drug or alcohol addiction. As ten of us stand around looking down at those addicts not ever realizing that seven of our crowd would be in the same shoes.
As I write this, I think about my goal with doing this. I believe I do this with a goal of asking you to take the time out of your day and attend one of these last remaining opportunities that the forums are being held. I am asking you for two hours of your time to sit down watch this video and answer the six questions posed so maybe just maybe we can find a way for this housed versus unhoused war to end. I’m asking people to stop complaining on Facebook. I’m asking people to stop saying that they wish someone would fix this problem. I’m asking people to be a part of looking forward to work on figuring out this issue together.
WE WILL NOT END HOMELESSNESS, but maybe we can find a way to get some people the help they want and learn how to live together with the ones who want to stay that way.
The remaining forums are taking place from 6-8pm and you can reserve a spot using the widget below. The tickets are free, and it’s just to help them understand how many people to expect. I hope to see you there.
Ronnie Abbott is a local photographer and founder of FYP Media – facebook.com/fypmedianh