Proposed Ordinance Could Force Homeless From Lebanon Site

  • Mike Olson pets his dog Sissy from his vehicle parked in a vacant lot near Hannaford in West Lebanon, N.H. Wednesday, May 11, 2016. Olson, who served in the Navy, says he has been living in the lot for ten years. "I had a nice quiet spot here for years and then eventually people started moving in," he said. In recent weeks the number of tents and campers in the lot and the surrounding woods has noticeably increased. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Thomas Moore sits outside his camper talking to his visiting friend Bill Blodgett, sitting in his car, Wednesday, May 11, 2016. Moore moved to this current spot in mid-April and a couple who recently lost their house set up camp nearby. There has been an influx of homeless people using the lot and the surrounding woods since the weather began to warm up. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • A "Do Not Disturb" sign hangs on the tent of a couple who lost their home in April and have since set up camp in the vacant lot near Hannaford in West Lebanon, N.H. Two weeks ago Dianne Munson, a homeless outreach worker for Tri-County CAP, knew of about five people living on city owned land near Hannaford in West Lebanon, N.H. Since then she has discovered seven new tents and her once-weekly visits to the area have grown to occupy most of her time. "I wasn't really ready for the mushrooming that happened here," said Munson during a visit to the camp Wednesday, May 11, 2016. "There's not enough hours in a week to do this and do it right." (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • A man who only identified himself as Tom, middle, searches his memory while trying to answer questions for homeless outreach worker Dianne Munson, of Tri-County CAP, left, and care coordinator Josh Ayer, of Easter Seals Military and Veterans Services, right, during a visit to his camp near Hannaford in West Lebanon, N.H. Wednesday, May 11, 2016. Tom, a veteran, has been living outside while trying to get a steady job and dealing with rheumatoid arthritis and other health problems. Two weeks ago Dianne Munson, a homeless outreach worker for Tri-County CAP, knew of about five people living on city owned land near Hannaford in West Lebanon, N.H. Since then she has discovered seven new tents and her once-weekly visits to the area have grown to occupy most of her time. "I wasn't really ready for the mushrooming that happened here," said Munson during a visit to the camp Wednesday, May 11, 2016. "There's not enough hours in a week to do this and do it right." (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Mike Olson pets his dog Sissy from his vehicle parked in a vacant lot near Hannaford in West Lebanon, N.H. Wednesday, May 11, 2016. Olson, who served in the Navy, says he has been living in the lot for ten years. "I had a nice quiet spot here for years and then eventually people started moving in," he said. In recent weeks the number of tents and campers in the lot and the surrounding woods has noticeably increased. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Outside his camper in the vacant lot near Hannafords in West Lebanon, N.H., Thomas Moore shows off the tricks he has taught his dog to his visiting friend Bill Blodgett, sitting in his car, Wednesday, May 11, 2016. Moore spent the winter in his camper in the Walmart parking lot before moving to his current spot in mid-April. Two weeks ago Dianne Munson, a homeless outreach worker for Tri-County CAP, knew of about five people living on city owned land near Hannaford in West Lebanon, N.H. Since then she has discovered seven new tents and her once-weekly visits to the area have grown to occupy most of her time. "I wasn't really ready for the mushrooming that happened here," said Munson during a visit to the camp Wednesday, May 11, 2016. "There's not enough hours in a week to do this and do it right." (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Tom set up camp in the woods near the Hannaford in West Lebanon, N.H. in April. Tom, a veteran of the Marines, said he has rheumatoid arthritis and other health problems that make it difficult for him to hold a job. Two weeks ago Dianne Munson, a homeless outreach worker for Tri-County CAP, knew of about five people living on city owned land near Hannaford in West Lebanon, N.H. Since then she has discovered seven new tents and her once-weekly visits to the area have grown to occupy most of her time. "I wasn't really ready for the mushrooming that happened here," said Munson during a visit to the camp Wednesday, May 11, 2016. "There's not enough hours in a week to do this and do it right." (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • A man who only identified himself as Tom, right, talks with homeless outreach workers Dianne Munson, of Tri-County CAP, left, and Josh Ayers, of Easter Seals, right, during a visit to his camp near Hannaford in West Lebanon, N.H. Wednesday, May 11, 2016. Tom, a veteran, has been living outside while trying to get a steady job and dealing with rheumatoid arthritis and other health problems. Two weeks ago Dianne Munson, a homeless outreach worker for Tri-County CAP, knew of about five people living on city owned land near Hannaford in West Lebanon, N.H. Since then she has discovered seven new tents and her once-weekly visits to the area have grown to occupy most of her time. "I wasn't really ready for the mushrooming that happened here," said Munson during a visit to the camp Wednesday, May 11, 2016. "There's not enough hours in a week to do this and do it right." (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Thomas Moore stows his cigarette to shake hands with Josh Ayers of Easter Seals Military and Veterans Services after a conversation outside his camper in Lebanon, N.H. Wednesday, May 11, 2016. Ayer, and Dianne Munson, of Tri-County CAP, trying to help Moore, and Army veteran, get housing and veterans benefits. Two weeks ago Dianne Munson, a homeless outreach worker for Tri-County CAP, knew of about five people living on city owned land near Hannaford in West Lebanon, N.H. Since then she has discovered seven new tents and her once-weekly visits to the area have grown to occupy most of her time. "I wasn't really ready for the mushrooming that happened here," said Munson during a visit to the camp Wednesday, May 11, 2016. "There's not enough hours in a week to do this and do it right." (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Tom places a tarp over the entrance to the tent of a fellow camper after discovering it was broken into in West Lebanon, Wednesday, May 11, 2016. Two weeks ago Dianne Munson, a homeless outreach worker for Tri-County CAP, knew of about five people living on city owned land near Hannaford in West Lebanon, N.H. Since then she has discovered seven new tents and her once-weekly visits to the area have grown to occupy most of her time. "I wasn't really ready for the mushrooming that happened here," said Munson during a visit to the camp Wednesday, May 11, 2016. "There's not enough hours in a week to do this and do it right." (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Tom, a veteran, holds his heart while talking with Dianne Munson, of Tri-County CAP, left, and Josh Ayer, of Easter Seals in his camp in West Lebanon, N.H. Wednesday, May 11, 2016. Tom has been living outside while trying to get a steady job and dealing with rheumatoid arthritis and other health problems. Two weeks ago Dianne Munson, a homeless outreach worker for Tri-County CAP, knew of about five people living on city owned land near Hannaford in West Lebanon, N.H. Since then she has discovered seven new tents and her once-weekly visits to the area have grown to occupy most of her time. "I wasn't really ready for the mushrooming that happened here," said Munson during a visit to the camp Wednesday, May 11, 2016. "There's not enough hours in a week to do this and do it right." (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Tom set up camp in the woods near the Hannaford in West Lebanon, N.H. in April. Tom, a veteran of the Marines, said he has rheumatoid arthritis and other health problems that make it difficult for him to hold a job. Two weeks ago Dianne Munson, a homeless outreach worker for Tri-County CAP, knew of about five people living on city owned land near Hannaford in West Lebanon, N.H. Since then she has discovered seven new tents and her once-weekly visits to the area have grown to occupy most of her time. "I wasn't really ready for the mushrooming that happened here," said Munson during a visit to the camp Wednesday, May 11, 2016. "There's not enough hours in a week to do this and do it right." (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 5/14/2016 12:10:19 AM
Modified: 5/31/2016 4:04:37 PM

West Lebanon — Three weeks ago, Thomas Moore and his Shih Tzu, Inky, relocated their camper from the Wal-Mart parking lot to a vacant lot farther north on Route 12A near the Hannaford supermarket.

The move afforded the 75-year-old a break from the hustle and bustle of the busy Wal-Mart shopping center. The small dirt patch of city-owned land also has offered several other homeless people a safe and secure place to stay — away from the city lights.

“I can sleep better here,” the disabled veteran said Wednesday as he sat in the sunshine outside of his camper. “Times are tough.”

Times could get tougher for Moore and the dozen or so others who have parked campers or pitched tents over the past several weeks in the lot along the Upper Valley’s busiest commercial strip.

Acting Lebanon City Manager Paula Maville said city officials are in the preliminary stages of drafting an ordinance that would prohibit camping and overnight parking on all city-owned land, with the exception of Boston Lot Lake, a conservation area off Route 10. A permit still would be needed to camp on that land.

 

Though discussion of an ordinance began a while back, Maville said, officials recently have noticed an increase in the transient population setting up on city-owned land, specifically in plain sight near Hannaford, which prompted the continuation of the discussion.

“I feel it is time to address it,” Maville said.

Mike Olson, 60, said he and his dog, Sissy, have resided on the lot near Hannaford for about 10 years. He, too, said he has noticed a recent increase in the number of people occupying the lot.

Olson, who served in the Navy, lives out of his SUV and an accompanying van; he is disabled and relies solely on his Social Security check.

The proposed ordinance could go before the City Council as soon as June 1; if it passes, it could be in place by the end of the month.

Before it reaches the City Council, Maville said, Lebanon officials will launch a public education campaign to notify people of the proposed ordinance and inform them of relocation options. The campaign also will aim to connect the homeless with social services. Informational pamphlets may be created and distributed, for example, she said.

“We definitely want to hit this head-on from the public relations side of things and allow everybody enough time,” Maville said.

She said she hasn’t heard any direct complaints from the public about people camping near Hannaford, but she has heard “talk” in the community.

The lot, which is near Market Street, a dead end that leads to Lebanon’s wastewater collection and treatment facility, is just one of several spots where homeless individuals have been known to stay in Lebanon.

In January, Lebanon police asked a homeless man to vacate the shelter he built on Storrs Hill. Several other encampments can be found along the Connecticut and White rivers.

Lebanon Police Chief Richard Mello said his department is aware of the influx of people staying in the lot near Hannaford. He attributed the recent increase to the improving weather.

His officers frequently conduct drive-by checks on the property, much like they do all over town, but haven’t forced anybody off the land.

“We haven’t been asked to by the city,” Mello said.

The chief said he supports the idea of an ordinance.

“There are no facilities down there. The property is not protected, it is not regulated,” Mello said of his concerns with having people camping out on the land.

The lot near Hannaford typically is used as a snow dump in the winter and a staging area for city projects in the summer.

Upper Valley Haven Executive Director Sara Kobylenski said creating an ordinance is within the town’s authority, but such a measure likely would accomplish little more than forcing homeless individuals to relocate to other areas in the Upper Valley.

“I think the folks that are camping there, if told they can’t be there, will move elsewhere,” she said.

The camp near Hannaford is not new, Kobylenski said.

“We know about that spot,” she said.

Kobylenski said her organization works to do whatever it can to get people off the streets and into housing, something that is particularly tough right now because the vacancy rate for affordable housing options has dipped to an all-time low.

One man who set up a camp in the woods near Hannaford said he sought help from the Haven this winter. The 40-something-year-old said Kobylenski let him sleep in her office because he fears sleeping in places with unfamiliar individuals.

“We try to respond to the individual needs of each person,” Kobylenski said, noting the man slept in her office for about three weeks.

The disabled veteran, who also suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and other health problems, declined to give his name for fear of retribution.

Representatives from both Tri-County CAP and Easter Seals New Hampshire stopped by the lot on Wednesday afternoon to meet with a few people.

Tri-County CAP Homeless Outreach Specialist Dianne Munson said she typically visits encampments to help connect homeless people with assistance programs.

She said there probably are more than a dozen people living in the lot near Hannaford. Most of the campers are not the men and woman frequently seen panhandling at Route 12A intersections, she noted.

One of the people she met with on Wednesday was Moore, who currently relies on his Social Security check to get by.

“It doesn’t pay much,” Moore said.

He is hoping to secure Veterans Affairs and other assistance benefits in the near future.

Moore previously worked as a mechanic and with steel, but was forced to stop due to injuries.

“I’ve tried to do small jobs, but I just can’t,” he said.

Moore, who splits his time between Tennessee and the Upper Valley, hopes to return to the South soon.

There, he can live in warmer weather year-round, and Inky can roam free.

“We can’t do that here,” he said.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.

Clarification

 

Thomas Moore says his dog, Inky, is a Shih Tzu. An earlier version of this story was unclear on the dog's breed.




Valley News

24 Interchange Drive
West Lebanon, NH 03784
603-298-8711

 

© 2020 Valley News
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy