On the day state officials are scheduled to clear out a homeless encampment in Manchester, a group of protestors turned out in support of people experiencing homelessness who for months have stayed on the lawn of the Hillsborough County Superior Courthouse.
Signs posted by the state order the camps’ inhabitants to leave the courthouse grounds by Monday, or else face legal action under a “no camping” statute. The state has contracted with a private cleaning crew to sweep the area Tuesday morning.
While some inhabitants appear to have vacated the encampment over the weekend, there were more than two dozen tents still in place as the deadline arrived.
With shelters at capacity, the camps’ remaining residents say they have no alternatives.
“They keep running us away from the city, so where are we going to go?” asked Calvin Atwood, who has been staying in a tent on the courthouse grounds for months. “Can someone tell me where can my people go?”
A few dozen protestors converged on the courthouse Monday morning, calling for a delay in the state’s enforcement actions.
Some carried signs reading “We Demand Housing, Nothing Less” while others sang Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” as traffic on Chestnut Street often slowed to take in the scene.
“It’s not safe, it’s not dignified, it’s not humane,” said Bree Whalon, who said she previously experienced homelessness while battling substance abuse. “It’s not right. It’s not right.”
The encampment near the city’s main commercial strip grew in size this summer, garnering attention and finger pointing as local and state officials sparred over the correct course of action.
Manchester has a city ordinance and curfews in place that restrict houseless individuals from staying overnight in most parks. The courthouse, however, is technically state property, where those rules don’t apply.
A 40-year old state law does prohibit camping on public property unless permission is given by a local municipality or governing body.