Video Portraits: Reaching Out, Working Together to Address Homelessness

  • Lebanon Police Chief Richard Mello is a member of the Lebanon Task Force on Homelessness. Photographed at the Lebanon Police Department in Lebanon, N.H., Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016. "Our commitment moving forward is ... when we recognize somebody who might be homeless ... is to find out why they're there, why they're homeless and then really try to match up the services that we can provide, the resources we can provide, to help them get out of that situation," he said. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Lynne Goodwin is director of human services for the City of Lebanon and is a member of the Lebanon Task Force on Homelessness. Photographed in her office in Lebanon, N.H., Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016. "Trying to go at it from a standpoint of, these people are homeless, they need a place, why not this place? It would take an awful lot to make that become a successful endeavor where individual safety and the public safety could be guaranteed," Goodwin said. "And instead, (we) have focused all summer long and this fall on helping everybody move out of that lot into temporary or permanent housing." (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Randy Sousa, left, and Foster Jenkins Jr., right, are both homeless and living in Lebanon. Jenkins lived for much of the summer in the Market Street lot in West Lebanon. Photographed in Colburn Park in Lebanon, N.H., Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. "I lost my brother at 17. I watched him shoot himself, he committed suicide. I've got PTSD, depression, anxiety. I'm a messed up individual," said Jenkins. "Why do you think I stay with him?" said Sousa. "I can control him, semi-control him. I can calm him down and stuff." (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Bev McKinley founded of Silent Warriors, a support organization for the homeless, in 2013. She is a member of the Lebanon Task Force on Homelessness. Photographed at home in Enfield, N.H., Friday, Oct. 7, 2016. "I have a big heart and I have a big house, so when I came across one person who I actually went to school with, who needed housing, I opened my home to him. He was here probably three weeks, and then started emotionally abusing me, and I had to ask him to leave," said McKinley. "And so it isn't a case of just opening your home because you've got four extra bedrooms. There's a huge risk with that." (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 lived in his camper at the vacant lot on Market Street in Lebanon from spring until moving early this fall into an apartment with the help of Lebanon Human Services and Silent Warriors paying half his rent. Photographed at home in Enfield, N.H., Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016. "I hope to get into a place I can afford and not put a burden on all these different services," he said. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Paula Maville is Lebanon's Interim City Manager and is a member of the Lebanon Task Force on Homelessness. Photographed in Colburn Park near City Hall in Lebanon, N.H., Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016. "(Homelessness is) obviously an issue that's bigger than Lebanon. We share a very tight community here in the Upper Valley. It's people on the Vermont side, it's people on the New Hampshire side and (we're) just working together to build an understanding and getting to know who is actually out there, and why," said Maville. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Jenny and Richard Bowley still live in a camp in the vacant lot on Market Street in West Lebanon, N.H. Both have health problems that keep them from holding jobs and they rely on Jenny's Supplemental Security Income and what Richard can beg from drivers along Route 12A. Photographed Monday, Sept. 27, 2016. "I want to work, I don't want to do this, look like a moron standing there holding (a sign, begging). I hate that. Can't stand doing it. I've got no choice. We've got to have money," said Richard Bowley. "The fact is, is that I'm about to crash. I would like to have a place to live, and this, as lovely as it is, isn't where I want to be when there's snow on the ground," said Jenny Bowley. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Dianne Munson is a homeless outreach worker for Tri-County Community Action and is a member of the Lebanon Task Force on Homelessness. Photographed at the vacant lot on Market Street in West Lebanon, N.H., Friday, Sept. 30, 2016. "The reason that I got ticked off about what was going on down here, is because it impacted the three people that had been here since I started, who minded their own business, who took care of each other," said Munson. "For a lot of people it's just a matter of, they just need a place, a safe place to sleep. That's all, they need a couple of months. And they'll be OK." (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Lebanon City Councilor Karen Liot Hill, of Lebanon, N.H., is a member of the Lebanon Task Force on Homelessness. Photographed at the Lebanon Diner in Lebanon, N.H., Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016. "This was an issue that generated some of the most passionate and also the most widespread engagement that I've ever seen in a city council meeting," said Liot Hill. "People thought that it was not a crime to camp on public land and that we were criminalizing it, when in fact, it was a crime and we were actually minimizing, or diminishing some of the consequences." (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Published: 10/15/2016 3:46:12 PM
Modified: 10/15/2016 3:46:09 PM

Lebanon — “This place actually gave us hope.”

Despite the couple’s many hardships, Jenny Bowley remembers feeling that way when she and her husband, Richard Bowley, moved into the homeless encampment in a vacant lot off Route 12A, near the Hannaford supermarket.

“It was beautiful and it was inspiring and you didn’t feel like you’re at the bottom,” said Jenny Bowley, who suffers from a neuromuscular disorder. She said she hasn’t walked in 20 years; Richard takes care of her.

The encampment came under public scrutiny in May, when news broke that city officials were in the preliminary stages of drafting an ordinance that would prohibit camping and overnight parking on city-owned land, such as the encampment where the Bowleys and several other homeless people were living.


RELATED: Click here for the Valley News' earlier reporting on this subject.

A hearing the following month drew more than 100 people from within the city and beyond. If city police were to fine people for sleeping outdoors, many asked, wouldn’t that be the equivalent of fining them for being homeless?

“They just wanted to drive everybody out,” Thomas Moore, who lived at the encampment until recently, said in a recent interview, calling it “a little bit discriminating.”

City officials said that their intent was not to criminalize homelessness.

“I think what the police chief was originally trying to do was give himself and his police officers some more flexibility so they could use more discretion to help people make some better choices,” Karen Liot Hill, a city councilor, said in an interview recently.

Over the past three months, the result of the proposed ordinance and the June meeting has been a coming-together of stakeholders from all sides of the issue: homeless people, advocates, city officials, police and residents — with several of them expressing a new appreciation of the challenges faced by homeless people, as well as the challenges in finding help for them.

“Our commitment moving forward is to when we recognize somebody might be homeless … is not just to say, ‘you can’t be here,’ displace them someplace else,” Police Chief Richard Mello said, “it’s to find out why they’re there, why they’re homeless, and then really try to match up the services that we can provide … to help them get out of that situation.”

Bev McKinley, who founded Silent Warriors, a group that gives tents to homeless people, said her work with the encampment over the past few months has led her to believe in a more structured approach to solving the problem.

“Originally, as I saw the encampment being highlighted, I was all for saying we need to help them there, it’s an awesome location … but after having so much publicity on them, more people came in and the dynamics of those people brought more legal issues,” she said.

Dianne Munson, a homeless outreach worker for Tri-County Community Action Program, agreed that in her years of experience in various regions, police would often think she was a danger, but recently in Lebanon, “working together is much stronger than before.”

Munson underscored the importance of the work ahead: “For all intents and purposes,” she said, “subsidized housing doesn’t exist in this state — there’s so little of it.”

“(Social Security Income) is $743 max in this state,” she said. “Do you know what a studio costs here? More than $743.”

McKinley noted that the challenges in finding affordable housing are exacerbated for single people or those who need handicap-accessible homes.

Some of the stakeholders, including Liot Hill, Mello, McKinley, interim City Manager Paula Maville and Lebanon Human Services Director Lynne Goodwin, are part of the city’s nine-person Task Force on Homelessness, which was born out of these discussions.

The group has submitted a revised ordinance to the City Council, which voted earlier this month to postpone a public hearing on it. Although the wording of the ordinance is similar to a version that was tabled by the City Council in June, the task force’s proposal sought to ease penalties for first-time offenders.

The council decided to further review the ordinance before setting a hearing.

James M. Patterson contributed to this report. He can be reached at jpatterson@vnews.com or 603-727-3230. Maggie Cassidy can be reached at mcassidy@vnews.com or 603-727-3220.

Click here for the full video album on Vimeo.




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