During a candlelight vigil in Veterans Square Thursday to remember homeless people who have died in New Hampshire, a small contingent read names and sang hymns. They included (from left) Elaine Morrison, Dick Smith, Tammy Emery, Mike Brian, Leonard Campbell and Bridget Daniell. (David Carkhuff/The Laconia Daily Sun)
By DAVID CARKHUFF, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — A four-page list containing 45 names — people who died while struggling with homelessness in the state of New Hampshire in 2016 — shifted from one gloved hand to another as a small group braved the cold at Veterans Square Thursday and took turns offering brief commemorations.
"But for the grace of God, that could be any of us," said Tammy Emery, Belknap House family support coordinator.
In January, the Belknap House is scheduled to open as a cold-weather shelter for families with children.
The annual outdoor candlelight vigil Thursday night sought to draw attention to the plight of homeless people. Leonard Campbell, community outreach worker at New Hampshire Catholic Charities, said Belknap House is urgently needed as shelters reach capacity in the winter.
"Families are still struggling to find shelter space, and that's one reason that Belknap House will be opening in January 2017," he said in an interview.
The annual homeless vigil, held in conjunction with the National Homeless Persons' Memorial Day, attracted Bridget Daniell, who worked with River Crew Art and met many homeless people who struggled with addiction. She herself has waged her battle to stay off the streets.
"I was homeless for two years, and I got help through Genesis, and they helped me get into a (psychiatric) hospital, and they helped me get into the Carey House," the Salvation Army-run homeless shelter, Daniell said.
Now she lives at the Butterfly House, a sober house, she said. Daniell said she volunteers with the bell ringers for Salvation Army; and she lays wreaths at the veterans cemetery (she met Gov. Maggie Hassan on a recent stint).
"Don't give up. There are people out there that will help you. Give them a chance," Daniell said.
Elaine Morrison and Dick Smith, two other attendees at Thursday night's vigil, said they have shifted their focus from the River Crew Art program, an outreach to homeless living along the riverbanks.
Smith said, "We've moved inside, with Navigating Recovery, and just opened last week. We'll be working with recovering addicts."
Navigating Recovery, at 635 Main St., Laconia, posts updates at https://www.facebook.com/navigatingrecovery.
The former River Crew Art program now is called Creative Recovery and is based at the Main Street location.
"We changed the name from River Crew Art to Creative Recovery, and we will focus on people who are trying to steer clear of substances, it's a positive program," Smith said.
Campbell said substance abuse is a common thread that winds through the problem of homelessness.
For a rare positive aspect of the state's opioid crisis, Campbell said, "One of the unintended consequences and nice things that have developed from that is more programs that are reaching in new directions to people that never had the help before."
That means more help to the homeless population. "Some of the people who wouldn't have been reached before are now starting to be reached. It's responding to people who have had long-term addiction," Campbell said.
According to a proclamation from Gov. Hassan, 4,301 people received emergency shelter services in fiscal year 2015; and nearly 291,000 nights of shelter were provided to homeless people in the state. In a single night in January, the state had 1,706 residents who were homeless, in shelters, unsheltered or temporarily residing with family or friends, according to the proclamation.
"There's always a need for shelter space especially when it's cold, the capacity is overextended," Campbell said.
"Who's willing to open up some temporary space that can be staffed and be a safe space?" he asked.
"If we had a flood, they'd open up an emergency shelter. In the wintertime, we do have a flood of homeless people," Campbell said.
Homeless Memorial Day Names, 2016
Dan Belcher, Keene, Marine Corps veteran who died of a heart attack; Deanna C.; Deb C.; Kelly C.; Steve Cherup, 50, "who died of injuries sustained when he was beaten"; Josh Colbath, Farmington, 35; Robert William Cook, "died of an apparent suicide"; Alan Cornish, 61; Anthony D., 49, who "died of an overdose"; Paul Laramee, who "kept saying, 'If I stay out, I won't last.' He died of an overdose"; Maura Laughlin, "a young mother whose son was her entire world"; Jocelyn M., "a young mother"; Michael M.; Patricia M.; Alanna Marrotte, "died at age 24 from a heroin overdose"; Ken Manning, "a Vietnam veteran"; Storm N.; Jorge O.; Christine P., who "died of an overdose at age 40; she was a mother of 3"; Gene Parker, who was "hit by a car while attempting to navigate snowy roads and sidewalks in his wheelchair"; Jeff Pendleton, who "died of an overdose at the age of 26, at Valley Street jail; he had won a lawsuit on panhandling in Nashua"; Lisa R.; Frederick H. Schofield, who "died at Lakes Region General Hospital on November 30 at 74 years old. ... he was an avid camper and loved to fish the wilds of the Baker and Pemigewasset rivers"; Joshua Damsell, 37; Elliot Defoe' Richard F.; Gerry G.' Jeremy Gendron, who "died of an overdose"; David Gile, who "died of a heart attack"; David Gross, 45; Aaron C. Heywood, 30; Dale Hodgkins Jr., 22; Geoffrey J.' Steve Jacques, who "had lived in the Carey House but later moved into housing"; Karen Kekoa; James Kikta, 57; Brenda L.; Gary L.; Linda L.: Tammy L.; Daniel Lacabonara, formerly of the Carey House; Ciro Scognamiglio, 61, who "had been homeless since his release from a year of incarceration"; Denis Thorsel Carpenter; John Watkins, who "died on the rail trail"; and Justin Zsisgray, 30, formerly of the Seacoast area. (These names were read aloud at the Dec. 21 homeless vigil in Laconia.)
Bridget Daniell, who experienced bouts with homelessness in Laconia, said she is waiting for housing and hopes to go to school to become a substance abuse counselor. (David Carkhuff/The Laconia Daily Sun)
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