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Twin Pines, Haven Want to Convert Lebanon Apartment Building Into Housing for Homeless People

  • Shawn Westover carries his bicycle down the steps of his apartment complex at 10 Parkhurst St., in Lebanon, N.H., on Wednesday, July 17, 2017. Westover said that he will be moving out when the building is renovated to accomodate low-income residents. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • A car passes by 10 Parkhurst St., in Lebanon, N.H., on Wednesday, July 19, 2017. The building will be renovated and current tenants will move out to accomodate low-income residents. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, July 20, 2017

Lebanon — Two Upper Valley organizations recently announced a collaboration to create housing for the region’s homeless population in downtown Lebanon.

Twin Pines Housing Trust is proposing to purchase 10 Parkhurst St. and renovate the building’s 18 studio apartments to serve the chronically homeless, people who have been without housing for 12 continuous months or on four separate occasions over the last three years.

Under federal subsidizes, tenants in the renovated building will pay 30 percent of their income toward rent with the remaining balance paid for by the government, Winter said. Those terms also will apply to extremely low-income residents who already reside in the complex.

The Upper Valley Haven, a White River Junction-based homeless shelter, will maintain a presence in the building, providing case management to keep residents housed.

“When people have a place to live that is decent, safe and sanitary, they are much more likely to have better health outcomes,” Andrew Winter, executive director of Twin Pines, said on Wednesday.

The arrangement between Twin Pines and the Haven provides what is known as the “three-legged stool” for successful housing outcomes, according to Sara Kobylenski, executive director of the Haven. If the homeless are provided with a place to live, subsidies for rent and access to services, they’re often successful into the future, she said.

The idea for 10 Parkhurst was partially born out of ongoing discussions about homelessness in Lebanon, Winter said.

Last spring, city officials grappled with how to deal with a homeless encampment in a city-owned lot off of Route 12A. The City Council ultimately formed a task force of representatives from social service agencies to study the problem and find housing for the roughly dozen people living in tents and campers at the lot.

The task force was formally dissolved when the Council passed a controversial no camping ordinance in December, but the social service organizations have continued to meet, Winter said.

“It was clear to us that there was a mismatch in what we had and what were able to offer people,” Winter said.

As groups attempted to find housing for the homeless, Twin Pines offered aid, he said. But most of the nonprofit’s 168 subsidized units are two-bedroom and not suitable for single adults.

Twin Pines’ Overlook Housing in Hartford is the organization’s only subsidized facility with case management, Winter said.

When Twin Pines saw an opportunity to apply for a National Housing Trust loan, the focus was on 10 Parkhurst St. The apartment complex, next to the Carter Community Building, is made up entirely of large studio apartments, Winter said.

“It is unusual to find a building that is so well set up for this kind of effort,” he said.

A $1.3 million grant was approved in April with the help of the New Hampshire Housing and Financing Authority. An anonymous donor also provided funding, and Winter expects aid from the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund.

All together, he expects renovation of the building to cost somewhere “in the high six figures,” not counting the funds needed to purchase the complex.

The building currently is owned by Chiplin Enterprises, a West Lebanon property management company that also owns neighboring 14 Parkhurst St.

“I think (Twin Pines) is being very ambitious,” said Chip Crawford, who owns the business. “I think it’s a nice idea. I hope the best for them.”

Crawford purchased the three-story building for $525,000 in 2002, according to Lebanon assessing records. Units currently are advertised at $695 a month with heat, hot water and electric included.

He expects Twin Pines to close on the property in a few weeks. Crawford declined to say how much the nonprofit is offering, but the building is assessed for $535,700, according to city records.

“I think it’s a great location,” Crawford said. “You’re right close to the bus routes, right close to the stores (in downtown).”

While Twin Pines is looking to the building’s future, it’s also working with current residents to either find them new housing or space in the renovated building once work is complete, Winter said.

Shawn Westover, who lives on the building’s second floor, said he first heard about the project several months ago and already has found a new apartment.

Westover bikes to the nearby bus stop at City Hall, which takes him to work at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and the Weathervane. The two jobs provide an income that is above the requirements for future residents.

“It’s good because there’s a lot of low-income people around here that they need more buildings for,” Westover said on Wednesday. “It’s a positive thing. They’re not really big apartments but it’s convenient.”

The proposal is being met with support from the city’s political leaders, who said on Wednesday the building’s location and connection to social services will benefit the homeless population.

“I do think that hopefully this will turn out to be a really positive success story for the power of putting people the right people together,” said City Councilor Karen Liot Hill, who served on the homeless task force.

Liot Hill said she’s “cautiously optimistic” of the project. Although it appears the building will combat homelessness, she said, it’s unlikely eradicate it all together.

“While this is hopefully a great example of a success that will make a big difference, I know that it’s not the end of the story and that there’s still going to be work to do,” she said.

“I think it’s a good project. It will be a substantial renovation of that building and it’s addressing a known need,” said City Councilor Clifton Below, who added the downtown area is the appropriate area for the proposal.

“I think it will probably represent a significant improvement,” especially since it would be coupled with social services, he said.

Councilor Sarah Welsch called the proposal “fantastic” on Tuesday, saying it will provide low-income people with a home that’s within walking distance to all downtown Lebanon has to offer.

Welsch said her only concern is that having the city become a magnet for the homeless. Federal housing guidelines prohibit discrimination based on where applicants live, meaning Lebanon’s homeless wouldn’t be the only ones who could apply to live at 10 Parkhurst. Welsch said however that she thinks that it’s unlikely someone from Claremont, for example, will want to relocate to Lebanon, she said.

“I think (Twin Pines) is such a thoughtful, caring and committed organization,” Welsch said, adding she trusts the nonprofit to carry out the project.

The proposal will go before the city’s Planning Board in August as Twin Pines seeks a boundary line adjustment with 14 Parkhurst St.

A new property line would have the two properties share an existing parking lot. The two buildings also would share a dumpster and recycling pad, according to planning documents.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.