LACONIA — About 100 people from various walks of life came together last Monday night at the Hope for the Homeless event that featured the award-winning short film "Inocente," — about the daughter of a homeless illegal immigrant mother and an abusive father who abandoned his family who finds strength and courage through her artistic ability.
Held in the cafeteria of the Middle School, people ate a soup and sandwich meal, watched the movie, and then broke up into groups to discuss three core questions: what did you feel when you say this and why; what surprised you; and what is possible in Laconia and the surrounding area.
In other words, "What would Inocente find if she were to come to Laconia."
According to those who spoke, Inocente would find the Belknap County Coalition for the Homeless — accessible by dialing 2-1-1.
She and he mother and two younger brothers would find help from New Beginnings which operates an open shelter for abused spouses and their children. For those in need of privacy or who are being threatened, New Beginning arranges for private shelters as well.
There is the Salvation Army's Carey House shelter that holds four apartments for families, some help from the guidance department in the Laconia School District that employs a homeless coordinator whose only job is to help identify and help those who are tacitly homeless and privately get the the services they need.
For many who watched the movie, they were surprised that Inocente didn't tell her fellow students that she was homeless.
For the professionals, they weren't surprised by that, saying that homelessness could be stigmatizing and sometimes students who are in their teens just aren't sensitive enough to others to understand what's different.
At the high school level, a student group called Freedom Found is trying to address some of the bullying and ostracism that can come with being poor.
The group meets together regularly and is accepting of everyone who wants to join.
Working with a guidance counselor, the group works against bullying and many of its members were at Monday's meeting working with the adults in their individual sessions.
At least one homeless person joined the group. "J" said his homelessness is caused by alcoholism.
Clean and sober for about 30 days now, "J" spends Monday mornings with the River Art Crew and many of his painting were on display at the event.
"I've been homeless on and off for 20 years," he said. When asked how he got by, he said "he would go where the booze was" he sold his food stamps, and pan-handled.
He said he slept under bridges, in tents, car lots, and hallways or on people's couches.
About the one thing many agreed was needed in Laconia was an emergency cold-weather shelter and more family shelters like the four apartments offered by the Carey House.
Mike Bernier of the Community Action Center said in his first years as a homeless advocate he found most of the chronically homeless were single people, many of whom had mental illnesses and drug and/or alcohol problems.
Recently, he said he seeing more families. He said landlords themselves are dealing with foreclosures, there is little affordable housing in Laconia, and there are very few jobs that pay a living wage.
"It's a perfect storm," he said.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 February 2014 01:44
MEREDITH — The Greater Meredith Program (GMP) celebrated 10 years of accomplishments at its annual meeting Monday night at the Inn at Church Landing and launched yet another initiative, a sculpture walk which aims see the work of about 25 artists showcased over a 15-month period along the town's Main Street and in its lakeside parks.
Bev Lapham, chairman of the Meredith Sculpture Walk, said the project will see an outdoor juried exhibit opening beginning June 1 of this year which will feature the work of New Hampshire sculptors who are being invited to submit works of art which will be on display year round.
Bases will be provided and the art work will have plaques identifying the artists along with contact information. The program will provide a $150 stipend to help pay for installation and the art work will remain on display for 15 months.
The non-profit community economic development organization has undertaken dozens of projects since it first started 10 years ago, according to architect Chris Williams. Those have included a facade improvement program for Main Street, a Courtyard project on Main Street, a landscaped garden at the Meredith Community Center , a tree planting program and a Wicwas Grange rehabilitation project which was honored by the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce with a Golden Trowel Award.
Other projects include a career partnership program which Executive Director Rhonda Hanaway said has provided over 200 job shadowing opportunities and 100 internships for students at Inter-Lakes High School over its first four years and is designed to help students make connections in their own community to make them aware of career opportunities which exist right in their own backyard.
Gage Wheeler, an Inter-Lakes High School senior, said that he had taken advantage of an internship opportunity at Moulton Farm last summer and introduced the audience to the Lakes Region-opoly Game, a board game modeled on Monopoly, which is being used in a fundraiser for the program.
Chis Kelly, outgoing GMP chairman, was presented with the President's Award in recognition of his service and said leading the organization had been an incredible experience.
''Helping our little town be the best we can has been a lot of fun. No matter where I go, people see what we've done and say 'Wow", you're doing that in Meredith? It's human resources, the great volunteers we have here who get these things done and make us such a strong community,'' said Kelly.
New GMP Board President Rob Stephens said the GMP remains dedicated to enhancing economic vitality, historical and cultural heritage, and town-wide beautification and will continue to play a strong role in the community.
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Award winners at the Greater Meredith Program's annual meeting included Nancy Lavigne, honors recognition; Pam Coburn, Volunteer of the Year; Vickie Carty, Volunteer of the Year; Liz Lapham, executive director; Rob Stephens, GMP Board president; Richard Pendergrast, board member of the year; Chris Kelly, President's Award; Rhonda Hanaway, honors recognition. The program celebrated 10 years of progress at its meeting held at Church Landing at Meredith. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 February 2014 01:35
LACONIA — Fourth Circuit Court, Laconia Division Judge Jim Carroll threw out one of three arson charges against a former Gilmanton man after hearing nearly six hours of probable cause testimony strung out over a two-week period.
Carroll ruled the state didn't provide enough probable cause that Jason Clairmont, 36, knowingly caused a fire that damaged a car parked in the parking lot of the Funky Monkey night club on September 4, 2013.
"There are too many holes," Carroll said, after viewing multiple surveillance tapes that showed Clairmont smoking outside of the Funky Monkey and walking near the car but little else.
Clairmont is charged with three counts of arson and is a primary suspect in a number of other arsons in Laconia — including two that occurred on January 25 and for which Carroll ruled there is probable cause to continue to trial.
According to the testimony given yesterday by two Laconia Police detectives, Clairmont said he accidentally threw a cigarette or some ashes into a car that was parked on the corner of Bowman and Academy Streets.
Video tapes show him in the Funky Monkey, at Cumberland Farms, walking along Bowman Street and crossing through the parking lot of Young's Auto Sales all around the time the car fire was set — around 2 a.m. January 25. In addition, Clairmont was found by a Gilford Police Officer walking in the area of Highland Street shortly after a second fire was set in some lattice work on a house at 91 Highland Street.
Video from Lakes Region General Hospital shows the Gilford officer bringing Clairmont to the emergency room at 3:06 p.m. for the treatment of a dog bite. Information has previously been made public that Clairmont's own dog bit him at home and his girlfriend had later driven him to Laconia.
She dropped him off in the city but police are alleging Clairmont first went to the Funky Monkey, then to Cumberland Farms where he bought cigarettes, lit the car fire on Bowman Street, walked up Pine Hill to Highland Street and lit a second fire on the lattice work of a house near the hospital.
Carroll ruled that because of the time lines, the videos, and Clairmont's own statements made to police about how he could have accidentally set both fires that there was enough evidence to continue to trial.
While hearsay evidence is allowed at probable cause hearings, Clairmont's attorney John Bresaw argued unsuccessfully that the evidence presented both last week and yesterday, especially information gathered by police from a N.H. Fire Marshal who did not personally see any of the crime scenes, was too far removed to be allowed even at a probable cause hearing. His testimony included telling police that all of the fires were started with open flames and the source of ignition was either destroyed or removed.
Bresaw said the state is trying to disprove statements made by Clairmont after five hours of questioning by police about incidents he was trying to explain. He said Prosecutor Jim Sawyer never presented any evidence that Clairmont did what police contend he did.
"There's no evidence of him doing anything," Bresaw said, noting that there are many other people in the city who are out and about who also wear white sneakers and a gray sweatshirt with a white stripe on it.
"(Clairmont's) telling them what he remembers and that's not even what happened," Bresaw said.
As for the video purporting to be Clairmont at Young's Auto, Bresaw said it was rubbish. "It could have been anyone," he said.
Carroll ruled there was more than ample evidence that there was probable cause to go forward with a trial for the car fire on Bowman and the lattice fire on Highland Street. He ruled that Clairmont was in close proximity to both fires and admitted as much to police. he also said the video surveillance from Cumberland Farms is evidence that he was in the area.
Bresaw also tried to get Clairmont's bail reduced to $5,000 cash, saying his girlfriend had moved from the Gilmanton home and he could return there and that he was getting help from Horizons.
Carroll upheld the $50,000 cash only bail saying he had significant concerns with the safety of the community and that people should be able to rest comfortably in their homes.
He also ordered the state to preserve the tape from Cumberland Farms for the four hours before Clairmont was seen there and for the four hours after he was there.
The next step is for the state, through the Belknap County Attorney's Office to indict Clairmont by presenting the case to a grand jury.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 February 2014 04:26
LACONIA — A Chichester man who allegedly stabbed a Keene man after a verbal altercation in the parking lot out side of the Funky Monkey night club here early on Sunday morning was ordered held on $50,000 cash only bail after appearing by video in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division yesterday.
Travis Dunn, 24, appeared distraught and was hyperventilating while the Laconia Prosecutor Jim Sawyer recounted his criminal history that included two counts of theft in 2007 and 2009, two simple assaults in 2007 and 2009, and two misdemeanor marijuana charges in 2011 and 2013. Dunn appeared in court via video hookup from the Belknap County Jail.
In an interview given to The Daily Sun on Monday, Dunn minimized his criminal record but did admit to one of the assaults and a marijuana charge.
Sawyer said the victim, Richard Russell, was flown to Dartmouth with serious injuries in the neck and asked for $50,000 cash-only bail.
His attorney, Public Defender Wade Harwood, said he had no objection to the traditional bail orders of no alcohol or drugs, no weapons, and no contact with his victim or any of the other people the but argued the Dunn's case was on of self-defense and that he should be released on personal recognizance bail or $1,500 cash at a maximum.
Harwood said Dunn has multiple family members in the Lakes Region, a job, and 50 percent custody of his two-year-old daughter. Two of Dunn's relatives were in court yesterday.
Judge Cim Carroll said at this point he was setting bail based solely on the information contained in the affidavits presented to him by the police.
He said he knew Dunn spoke with the media about the incident but for the purposes of yesterday's arraignment he was holding him on $50,000 cash based on the police affidavits statements that multiple witnesses said Dunn was holding a knife in the air and that "Dunn slashed at Russell."
Three of the witnesses said the blade was between 3 1/2 to 4 inches long, said affidavits.
Dunn said Monday he ran from the scene after the victim charged into his knife. He said he wasn't sure if Russell knew he was holding a knife and that he had brandished it to keep what he estimated to be six attackers at bay while he got into a car with two female friends.
He said he likely lost the knife while running away (he said he fell three or four times on the ice while running) and that he thinks it's somewhere downtown. It is not known if police have recovered it.
Carroll said Dunn would have an opportunity to revisit bail during a probable cause hearing that would be held within two weeks.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 February 2014 04:10
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