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NH State Senate Passes Ban On Conversion Therapy

Last week, we posted a story about the horrors associated with “conversion therapy” and why it should be banned in New Hampshire (and throughout the country).  Today we have some good news: The New Hampshire Senate just passed SB224, a bill to ban “conversion therapy on minors under 18.”

“I applaud my Senate colleagues for taking this important step to eliminate this dangerous practice in New Hampshire. No child should be told that they are not equal, not worthy, or should somehow conform to be like everybody else. That is the antithesis of freedom and human dignity,” said Senator Fuller Clark, prime sponsor of SB 224.

“All children should have the opportunity to grow up without being told that they should not be who they are. I commend my colleagues for their bipartisan passage of this bill to protect our children from the damaging effects of this practice,” Fuller Clark added. 

“As a young LGBTQ Granite Stater, it is unconscionable that it would be legal in this state for a child to be told that they are not equal, not worthy, or that they are somehow not normal,” said Brenna Connolly, a UNH Manchester student from Nashua. “Conversion therapy is a dangerous, discredited practice and is nothing more than sanctioned discrimination that does incredible physical and mental harm to LGBTQ children.” 

“While we are thankful that the Senate passed SB 224 today, we are calling on Governor Sununu to vocally support this bill and commit to signing it if it reaches his desk. Given the fact he nominated someone who has defended conversion therapy to be our new Education Commissioner, it is Governor Sununu’s responsibility to stand up and let all LGBTQ children know that he will protect them from dangerous practices like conversion therapy. Anything short will be unacceptable to our state’s proud tradition of advancing LGBTQ rights,” Connolly added.  

“Edelblut compared anti-LGBTQ counseling – and therefore, being gay or lesbian – to counseling to end a smoking, drinking, or drug addiction,” said Zandra Rice-Hawkins, Executive Director of Granite State Progress, who released the video of Edelblut testifying against banning conversion therapy last year.  

Edelblut is not the only one who defends this type of child torture.  GOP State Senator Bob Giuda defended conversion therapy’s ability to “protect societal norms.” Senator Giuda once compared same-sex marriage to “bestiality.”

“Senator Giuda’s comments are horribly inhumane. Referring to gay children as ‘outside of the societal norm’ is precisely the reason they face bullying, physical harm, and question their own worth. This kind of thinking builds on the intolerance we saw in Washington this week as the Trump administration stripped away the trans rights enshrined into law during the Obama administration,” said Raymond Buckley, Chair of the NH Democratic Party. 

“Fortunately, Sen. Giuda’s thinking isn’t in the majority. In a bipartisan fashion, the New Hampshire Senate stood up against the cruel practice of conversion therapy. We encourage the House to do the same and send this bill to the Governor’s desk. Governor Sununu has been silent on the issue of conversion therapy, and it’s time he make his position known,” added Buckley. 

Next the bill will move to the NH House where it will once again be debated before it is voted on.  Hopefully the House will follow the Senate’s bi-partisan support of this bill and ban conversion therapy for minors in NH.

End Child Abuse In The Name Of “Therapy”

‘The Plight of the Transgender’
Image by Rose Morelli, www.facebook.com/Rosemorelliphotography

This coming week the New Hampshire State Senate will debate and ultimately vote on a bill to prohibit “conversion therapy” to change a person’s gender presentation or identity for children under 18.

New Hampshire looks to join the five states and the District of Columbia that have already banned conversion therapy on minors.

“No child should be told that they are not equal, not worthy, or should somehow conform to be like everybody else. That is the antithesis of freedom and human dignity,” said Senator Fuller Clark, prime sponsor of SB 224.

“Conversion therapy is a dangerous and discredited practice that is aimed at young people in order to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. This harmful practice uses shame, rejection, and psychological abuse and can lead to depression, decreased self-esteem, substance abuse, and even suicide,” the Senator added.

“It is not therapy but child abuse that can lead to suicide; and should be illegal,” said Mo Baxley, Former Executive Director of New Hampshire Freedom To Marry.

Conversion therapy is highly controversial due to the unproven tactics and the fact it has continually been deemed as ineffective.

“Research suggests the treatment can worsen feelings of self-hatred and anxiety, because it encourages people to fight or hate a sexual orientation that can’t be changed [5 Surprising Facts About Gay Conversion Therapy],” wrote Tia Ghose for LiveScience.

Ghose goes on to describe the practice of conversion therapy as “a method reminiscent of the one used in ‘A Clockwork Orange.’ In aversion therapy, gay people were exposed to a negative stimulus (such as being shocked, given nausea drugs or imagining such exposures) while viewing same-sex erotic material.”

Conversion Therapy has not been proven to “convert” people but is actually harmful to “patients.”

American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry wrote in their 2012 study, Practice Parameter on Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Orientation, Gender Nonconformity, and Gender Discordance in Children and Adolescents:

“Clinicians should be aware that there is no evidence that sexual orientation can be altered through therapy, and that attempts to do so may be harmful. There is no empirical evidence adult homosexuality can be prevented if gender nonconforming children are influenced to be more gender conforming. Indeed, there is no medically valid basis for attempting to prevent homosexuality, which is not an illness. On the contrary, such efforts may encourage family rejection and undermine self-esteem, connectedness and caring, important protective factors against suicidal ideation and attempts. Given that there is no evidence that efforts to alter sexual orientation are effective, beneficial or necessary, and the possibility that they carry the risk of significant harm, such interventions are contraindicated.”

“There is no published scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of “reparative therapy” as a treatment to change one’s sexual orientation,” stated the American Psychiatric Association in a 1997 study. They go on to say, “The potential risks of “reparative therapy” are great and include depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient.”

The Human Rights Coalition cites at least a dozen other organizations that show “conversion” or “reparative” therapy does not work and can cause more harm to young adults.

“People who have gone through conversion therapy face 8.9 times the rates of suicide ideation, face depression at 5.9 times the rate of their peers and are three times more likely to use illegal drugs and be at high risk for sexually transmitted infections,” wrote Zach Stafford in the Guardian.

It is time to end this inhumane practice, especially on children. This bill will be heard in the NH Senate this Thursday, Feb 23rd. Contact your State Senator and tell them you want them to support SB 224, a ban on conversion therapy in NH.

Mark Dobbins: “Dear Becky”

Singer and Songwriter Beyonce

Dear Becky:

I’ll wait while you put down your yoga mat.

You voted for Trump. After these past few weeks, I really have to ask, “What the hell were you thinking?” Seriously, Trump? The shouting guy on the TV?

I know, you were so concerned about those email servers. Do you even know what an email server looks like? And Benghazi! Find Benghazi on a map unassisted and I’ll eat a bug.

You overlooked the fact that he broke two marriage vows but somehow think he’ll keep his oath of office.

You overlooked his addiction to tweeting – and tweeting – and tweeting.

You overlooked a lot that would have set your hair on fire had President Obama done the same.

And because of you, every thinking person in this country is freaking out. But not you.

Because you are safe behind your yoga mat of white privilege.

You didn’t join the millions of people who crammed our streets to protest. Because you were busy. Because Emma had a lesson. Because Noah had a game. Because you had to get the oil changed on your SUV. Because you were busy being white. Because it doesn’t affect you – and it never has.

By now you’re sputtering, “But I have black friends,” “I’m not racist,” and my personal favorite, “I’m not privileged.”

Yes, you are. You’re privileged, and probably racist too. Most white people are and don’t even know it – or do, and don’t care.

Here’s a simple way I use to test white privilege. Can you go an entire day without interacting with a person of color if you tried? I’m betting the answer is yes. That’s the bubble of white privilege that you think will protect you. But it won’t. Not by a long shot.

So you want to keep those “nasty hombres” out of our country by building a wall? When the price of your food skyrockets because white folks won’t pick crops, you’ll care then. Because it affects you.

So you think by insulting foreign leaders our nation looks stronger? You equate shouting with strength – because you have always had the microphone and always think you will. How many times have you shouted “I want to see your manager,” when you didn’t get what you wanted, then, at that moment?Now Trump is the manager and there’s no one else to call.

So you think defunding Planned Parenthood will make abortions go away? When Emma comes home someday with bad news, you’ll always have a way to fix that problem. A poor woman’s abortion is Emma’s D&C. Most people won’t have those choices. But you will. That’s why it’s called “pro-choice.” Because we want the choices you have always had – and always will.

By now you’re probably angry and about to write something nasty in the comments section. I hope you do. I want you to be angry. As I promised in my first column, I’ll probably make you mad from time to time. This is one of those times.

But stop for a moment and think.

Could I be just a little bit right?

And could you be just a little bit white – and privileged?

Regards,

Mark

PS: We’ll talk more about this in the upcoming months. I’m just laying the groundwork for that conversation. I hope you’ll stick around.

(Featured Image: Katrina In Yoga Pose, by Earl McGee on Flikr CC)

Mark Fernald: How Do We Keep Guns Away From “Bad Guys”

“The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” So said NRA President Wayne LaPierre just after the Sandy Hook massacre. If a ‘bad guy’ pulls out a gun and starts shooting, the only answer, according to Mr. LaPierre, is for someone to pull out another gun and take the ‘bad guy’ out.

The NRA and the Republican Party advocate what they call “Constitutional carry”—allowing anyone to carry a gun, openly or concealed, at any time and anywhere (excluding, one presumes, people with felony convictions). Republicans all over the country are attacking background checks, gun-free zones, and laws that require a permit to carry a loaded, concealed weapon.

The Democratic Party approach is different; it focuses on preventing people likely to misuse guns from getting them in the first place. The background check law has stopped over 1.5 million ‘bad guys’ from buying guns since 1994. That law passed after a Republican filibuster failed.

Unfortunately, our background check system has a couple of glaring loopholes. It does not cover sales of guns by unlicensed sellers at gun shows or sales between private parties, so any ‘bad guy’ who wants to buy a gun has an easy workaround.

Republicans have repeatedly blocked efforts by Democrats to require a background check for all gun sales. Republicans seem to value easy access to guns over a system that would keep guns out of the hands of felons and people with severe mental disabilities.

This is not about Constitutional rights. Background checks and concealed carry permits are Constitutional. In the case of District of Columbia v. Heller, the US Supreme Court ruled that citizens have a Constitutional right to keep and bear arms. Justice Scalia, writing for the majority, explained that the right to bear arms is limited: It is not “a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” Justice Scalia specifically referenced prior court decisions that upheld restrictions or bans on carrying concealed, loaded weapons.

For 94 years, New Hampshire has required a permit to carry a loaded, concealed weapon in a car or on your person. The permits are issued by the chiefs of police in each city and town. The law states that permits can be issued to “a suitable person to be licensed.”

Our chiefs of police have taken their responsibility seriously, seeking out the record and the reputation of those applying for a concealed carry permit. Sometimes an applicant is an irresponsible citizen who is not suitable for a permit: a person who has a history of getting drunk in bars and picking fights; a person who has threatened someone with a gun in the past, though never convicted of a felony; a person who has been involved in road rage incidents; a person who has been the subject of multiple domestic violence calls to 911.

Under current law, if a person has committed an act of violence below the felony level, it is legal for that person to have a gun at home. But if that person wants to carry a loaded concealed weapon in public, New Hampshire has a higher standard implemented by our chiefs of police.

The State Senate and the House have now passed SB12, which eliminates the requirement for a permit to carry a concealed loaded weapon. In the Senate, the ten Democrats were the only no votes. Thirteen Republicans voted yes. The vote in the House was nearly as lopsided. Only two Republicans voted no, and only ten Democrats voted yes.

The effect of SB12 is to remove the discretion of chiefs of police to deny permits. Republicans talk about law and order; they should trust the chiefs of police to exercise good judgment in determining who should be allowed to carry a loaded, concealed weapon. This is what Republicans and the NRA have now abolished.

The New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police spoke out against SB12. Their arguments fell on deaf ears. The Governor has indicated he will sign SB12.

If you have a chance to speak to your Representative or Senator or the Governor, ask these questions: Should an alcoholic with multiple DWI convictions be allowed to carry a loaded concealed weapon? How about the man who punched his neighbor during an argument? Or the woman who has been diagnosed a paranoid schizophrenic, and sometimes fails to take her meds?

Once Republicans have succeeded in passing SB12, almost anybody could be carrying a loaded, concealed weapon—even people with violent histories. And our only defense, in this Republican world, will be to avoid the first shot, and try to return fire.

 

Mark Fernald is a former State Senator and was the 2002 Democratic nominee for Governor. He can be reached at mark@markfernald.com.

Building On Our Intersectional Platform, The NH Labor News Is Expanding And Looking For New Voices

We have new and exciting news: The NH Labor News is expanding.

From our very humble beginnings in 2011, the NH Labor News was started to help share the voices of working people as Speaker Bill O”Brien and the NH Legislature began a new assault on working people. In the early days we focused on unions and legislation that effected unions in New Hampshire.

Over the years we have continued to grow and expand adding new voices. Now many progressives are using the term “intersectionality” to describe what we have been trying to do for many years. Intersectionality is the idea that there is a point where all of our different social movements intersect.

A prime example of this is our work with Granite State Progress. Granite State Progress helped connect our strong labor focused community with new social movements like gun violence protect, LGBT rights, protecting women’s reproductive rights, and voting rights.   There are many examples where these issues intersect with the goals and values of the labor community and many of us are already involved in these fights.

We also added weekly commentary from MaryLou Beaver, Executive Director of Every Child Matters (NH) who focuses on education, poverty and healthcare issues facing working families in New Hampshire.

From the beginning, labor unions helped to push social and economic justice movements. Labor was instrumental in the civil rights movement in the 1960’s and the LGBT movement that began in the 1980’s.

With that in mind the NH Labor News will be working to create an even more diverse cross section of commentators who regularly publish through our network. Specifically we want to hear directly from people inside of these movement to better understand what is happening, why it is important to everyone, and most importantly, what we can do to help. There is a real difference hearing about an issue from someone who is personally effected by policy changes than by someone reporting what they know about it.

Starting this week we will be adding another regular column from Mark Dobbins. Mark is an art historian and writer who currently lives in Philadelphia.

As an LGBTQ activist, Mark has been fighting for civil rights for over twenty years. Most recently, Mark was appointed to the Hillary for Pennsylvania LGBT Leadership Council.

As part of the NH Labor News team, Mark will write about those issues that affect your lives. From workers’ rights, living wages, union rights, LGBTQ rights, and the daily struggles of working families everywhere – Mark will write about what matters to you.

We are also looking to add more voice to our growing network. We are specifically looking for two voices to fill a few a few voids in our coverage.

We are looking for a regular commentator who would like to keep us up to date on immigration and refugee issues. With the newly imposed ban on refugees and the repeal of DAPA and DACA, it will take all of us working together to help protect the rights of immigrants and refugees.

We are also looking for a person of color to discuss some of the issues facing people of color, like the school to prison pipeline, the Black Lives Matter movement, and voting rights.

As of right now, these will be voluntary but as we grow who knows what will happen. So if you know of someone who is willing to take on a bi-weekly or weekly column in the NH Labor News please contact me directly.

Together we can build a strong broad based coalition of working people to fight back against daily assault on our rights.

New Statewide Poll Shows Overwhelming Opposition to Changes in NH’s Smoke-free Law

Image by D-15 Photography on FLICKR CC

NH voters are inexorably opposed to changing the state’s current smoke-free law; opposition is deep and wide, crossing party, geographic, gender, age, and ideological lines.

CONCORD – State Representative Robert Hull has proposed legislation (HB 279) to make “changes to the indoor smoking act,” would allow smoking in “private residences”.  If passed this bill would allow smoking in grocery stores, restaurants, bars and lounges across the state.  

The health and well being of the workers inside these establishments must be considered when legislators debate this repeal.  Workers should not be force to breathe air that is dangerous to their health.  

Poll results released today by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) showed that the voters of New Hampshire are overwhelmingly supportive of the state’s current smoke-free law and oppose attempts to once again allow smoking in certain public places. This information was released on the heels of ACS CAN’s annual legislative breakfast, where over 50 cancer survivors and advocates converged in Concord to urge lawmakers to protect their right to breather clean indoor air and oppose HB279. 

According to the poll, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, fully 88 percent of New Hampshire voters oppose the proposed bill that would allow smoking in grocery stores, restaurants, cocktail lounges, and bars. Majority support for the current law is bi-partisan and spreads across every demographic sub-group and geographic region of New Hampshire.  Even smokers themselves are opposed to a change. Other findings of the poll include:

  • 84 percent of voters favor the current law – which prohibits smoking in bars, restaurants, and other public places – and only 14 percent oppose it.  An incredibly high 74 percent of voters strongly favor the current law.
  • A smoke-free environment is important to voters, and by seven-to-one, they say the right of employees and customers to breathe smoke-free air is more important than the right of smokers and business owners to allow smoking in restaurants and bars.
  • 70 percent of voters say they are less likely to vote for their state legislator if they back this bill.

“The results of this poll are unprecedented and should send a loud and clear message to lawmakers: voters overwhelmingly value their right to breath clean indoor air, and wholeheartedly oppose any changes to the state’s current smoke-free law,” said Mike Rollo, director of government relations for ACS CAN in New Hampshire. “There is simply no political upside to supporting this bill, nor is there any upside for the health of Granite Staters.”

“Along with voters statewide, ACS CAN strongly opposes any legislation that would weaken New Hampshire’s clean indoor air laws,” said Rollo. “We hope lawmakers will take in account the overwhelmingly high opposition to changing the law as they debate HB 279. Voters have made their opinion clear: now is the time to be looking forward to continued progress in the fight against cancer – not the time for stepping back to undo a decade long protection of clean indoor air in the Granite State.” 

Over 5,000 Attend NH Women’s Day of Action And Unity in Concord 

Thousands Rally in Concord to Show Their Support for Women’s Health and Reproductive Rights

An outpouring of support in the Granite State for Planned Parenthood health services.

CONCORD, NH—More than five thousand gathered in Concord today to show their support for women’s health at the New Hampshire Women’s Day of Action and Unity. The rally was a solidarity event with the Women’s March on Washington DC. Those in attendance stood together to listen to speakers and to support the progress made for human rights, workers’ rights, LGBTQ rights, economic justice, environmental justice, racial justice, and reproductive justice. Rally goers were eager to voice their support for women’s health, equity, and justice in an era of uncertainty for Planned Parenthood and abortion access.

After the rally, Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund hosted an activist organizing session which had over 150 participants gaining resources and tools to bring back to their local communities.

Statement from Kayla Montgomery, Director of Advocacy and Organizing for Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund:

“It’s inspiring to see so many New Hampshire women and Planned Parenthood Action Fund members out today to rally for our collective rights- like women’s health and access to safe and legal abortion. Today was a moment to come together to protect and advance the progress we’ve made. We are honored to be a part of today’s rally, because we know that New Hampshire has strong bipartisan tradition of supporting women’s health, and we refuse to let our rights be rolled back.”

Statement from Ilyssa Sherman, speaker at rally:

“If Planned Parenthood is defunded, millions of women like me will lose access to this critical provider. We can’t let this happen. We need to step up, speak out, and act now to save our health care. Because I have a preexisting condition, if the Affordable Care Act is repealed I may be blocked from health insurance policies in the future.”

Today’s rally marked one event to coincide with the #IStandWithPlannedParenthood national grassroots campaign, which includes 300 events in 47 states across the country. Speaker Ryan recently pledged to defund Planned Parenthood health services – a measure that would leave thousands of Granite Staters without care. The measure would prohibit the health care provider from receiving reimbursement for services, like cancer screenings and birth control, provided to patients insured by federal programs like Medicaid and Medicare. In effect, this blocks patients from accessing reproductive health care. Federal insurance programs do not cover abortion.

PPNHAF also plans to host three open mic “story slams” in coffee shops in Manchester, Portsmouth and Keene where women, men, and families can share the important role Planned Parenthood and reproductive health care access has played in their lives. The events will take place on January 26th and 27th at Book & Bar in Portsmouth on Thursday January 26th from 7-9pm, Brewbakers in Keene on Friday January 27th from 6-8pm and Studio 550 in Manchester on Friday January 27th from 7-9pm.


Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund (PPNHAF) is an independent, nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization formed as the advocacy and political arm of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England in New Hampshire. The Action Fund engages in educational and electoral activity, including voter education, grassroots organizing, and legislative advocacy.

Republicans In NH Senate Vote To Make NH Less Safe, Repeal 94 Year Old Conceal Carry Permit Law

The New Hampshire State Senate voted on party lines today to pass SB 12, which seeks to repeal a 94 year old concealed carry licensing law that helps prevent dangerous people from being able to legally carry hidden, loaded weapons. 

The bill was opposed by gun violence protection groups as well as many of New Hampshire’s law enforcement.  The New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police testified against a similar piece of legislation last session, and in 2004 Senate President Chuck Morse and several Republicans voted against a similar repeal bill.

“SB 12 is another attempt by the gun lobby to allow anyone in New Hampshire to legally carry a hidden, loaded handgun. Requiring a license to carry a concealed weapon has worked well for New Hampshire for more than 90 years. These licenses are very easy and quick to obtain and do not place an unreasonable burden on law abiding citizens. SB 12 is a radical piece of legislation that will jeopardize public safety. The common sense law we have in place now allows local police departments to deny a license when there is reason to believe a person is a danger to themselves or others. For example, if an individual in a community is a known domestic abuser but has yet to be indicted, or has a hot temper and a habit of getting into bar fights, New Hampshire thankfully provides our local police departments with the ability to reject their concealed carry application. With this vote, New Hampshire is opening the door to allow dangerous individuals with a track record of violence to legally carry hidden, loaded weapons,” said Zandra Rice-Hawkins, Executive Director of Granite State Progress. 

Sen. Bette Lasky (D-Nashua) released the following statement after passage of the bill: 

“For decades, New Hampshire’s concealed carry permitting law has effectively safeguarded our Second Amendment rights while helping to keep New Hampshire one of the safest states in the nation. Repeal of the common sense measures outlined in this law will make it harder for law enforcement to do their jobs and needlessly put the people of New Hampshire at higher risk,” said Senator Lasky, Vice Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senate Democrats offered two amendments to address flaws in SB 12. Senator David Watters (D-Dover) introduced an amendment that would clarify the language of the bill to allow Fish and Game to do their jobs to monitor poaching in the state. Senator Bette Lasky (D-Nashua) introduced an amendment to require background checks for gun owners applying for concealed carry permits. Both amendments were defeated along party lines.

“Given the ramifications of this legislation, I’m concerned that Governor Sununu and Senate Republicans are rushing this legislation so quickly through the legislature and I’m disappointed by the outcome of today’s vote.”

Celebration of Doris Granny D Haddock’s Birth 107 Years Ago

Dublin, NH: Open Democracy/New Hampshire Rebellion and PACE: Promoting Active Civic Engagement announce that on January 24, 2017 they will hold a celebration of Doris Granny D Haddock’s birthday 107 years ago. Granny D gained fame and admiration by walking across the United States in her 90th year in support of  campaign finance reform. Subsequently she travelled the country to help countless citizens to register to vote. For her activism she received many awards in New Hampshire and elsewhere.

“In the present turbulent times it helps to take a deep breath and remind ourselves of an intrepid citizen like Doris Haddock, who was willing to use her ‘power of one’ in the fight for the health of our democracy”, said Regina Bringolf, co-chair of Open Democracy.

The celebration on January 24 will be held at 12 noon at the Dublin Community Center, 1123 Main Street in Dublin, NH.  The public is cordially invited. There will be a potluck luncheon (please bring a small dish to share) and remembrances of Granny D’s walks and others, organized by the NH Rebellion, that her friends and supporters have undertaken in her memory. RSVP requested to Doreen@opendemocracy.me, or call 603-715-8197.

Statewide Homelessness Is Down In New Hampshire, But For How Long?

A new report shows that progress has been made to reduce the homeless population in New Hampshire but systemic problems could lead to future increases.

The NH Coalition to End Homelessness just released their fifth annual report on the State of Homelessness in New Hampshire. The report show some good news in the fight to eliminate homelessness but the report also shows some alarming trends the could undue all of the gains made over the past few years.

“2016 saw significant reductions in our overall homeless numbers. Data among specific subpopulations of the homeless also indicates that important progress is being made,” wrote Cathy Kuhn Ph.D, Director of The NH Coalition to End Homelessness (NHCEH). “The number of individuals living unsheltered continued to drop over the past year and homelessness among veterans and among the chronically homeless also declined.”

The report shows that programs like the NH Governor’s Interagency Council on Homelessness (NHICH) are making real progress in combating homelessness.

“Under the leadership of the NHICH, the state has made significant progress towards creating a Supportive Housing Services Benefit for Medicaid beneficiaries who are experiencing homelessness. Research consistently shows that combining affordable housing with tenancy support services and care coordination can help those with the greatest challenges to live with stability and wellness,” Kuhn added.

With a goal of completely eliminating homelessness in New Hampshire, NHCEH reported a significant drop in homelessness in 2016.  Overall homelessness in New Hampshire dropped by 19% from 2014 numbers with Merrimack County seeing the largest drop at 56%.

This is great news, especially when added with the fact that “Chronic Homelessness,” that is people who have been continually homeless for over a year, fell by 17%.

The state also saw a 45% decrease in “unsheltered homelessness.”  This is a 63% drop from 2014 numbers. “Providing appropriate interventions as quickly as possible for people who are experiencing unsheltered homelessness, particularly for those who are newly homeless, is critical to preventing the development of additional complications associated with long-term, chronic homelessness,” NHCEH stated.

NHCEH also found that nearly half (41%) of the overall homeless population in New Hampshire are “persons in families.”  The good news is that family homelessness is also down by 29% in 2016.  221 homeless persons in families were able to move off of the streets and into stable housing this year.

The last bit of good news is that veteran homelessness in New Hampshire fell by 19% in 2016 and is down over 32% since 2014.  This dramatic drop over the last few years comes from a combination of state and federal assistance to end “functional homelessness” for veterans.

“In New Hampshire, significant efforts have been made to reach functional zero among the state homeless veteran population. With substantial support from the Governor’s Office, numerous agencies serving veterans across the state are working together to identify and immediately house any veteran who is either unsheltered or residing in an emergency shelter or transitional living program. These efforts are reflected in the continual declines that the state has seen in its homeless veteran population,” reported NHCEMH.

CAUSE FOR CONCERN

Overall the report shows astounding results in lowering the homeless population in New Hampshire, the report also shows some serious issues that need to be address that if unchanged could lead in an increase in homelessness.

It is a fact that New Hampshire has one of the lowest unemployment rates in that country, sitting at 2.7%.  Most counties in New Hampshire saw more than a 30% decrease in unemployment over the last two years.  This means that more people are working which should be good news in the fight to end homelessness but the NHCEH report highlighted some of New Hampshire’s unique problems.

“While low unemployment rates are being enjoyed across all New Hampshire counties, it’s important to note that even when working full time, many low income people are still unable to attain stable housing due to low wages and/or temporary and irregular work opportunities. One recent analysis reports that someone working full time at minimum wage would need to work 91 hours per week in order to afford a one bedroom apartment at the Fair Market Rent in New Hampshire.”

Gaining employment does not always lead to prosperity.  NHCEH notes that the poverty rate in New Hampshire, currently 8.9%, has grown by 6% a year since 2014. “Given the link between homelessness and poverty, the steady increase in the state has the potential to slow recent decreases in the number of homeless individuals and families,” stated NHCEMH.

To make matters worse wages have not kept up with the increased cost of housing.  Statewide wages have increased by 3.7% but have failed to keep up with the 8.8% increase in median rental costs.

Below is the breakdown of  the “median gross rent” for a 2-bedroom apartment by county in NH.  As you can see the median cost for a 2-bedroom apartment in Rockingham and Hillsborough are $1,321 and $1,278 a month, respectively.

median-rental-costs-nh-2016

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition the median “fair market rent” for a 1-bedroom apartment in New Hampshire is $861 a month. Remember, a full time (40 hour) minimum wage worker ($7.25 per hour) earns $290 a week or $1,160 a month. That means that 74% of their monthly paycheck would go to paying for housing alone and does not include food, heat, electricity, transportation or any other expenses.  The cost for a 2-bedroom apartment it ranges from 68% of their monthly paycheck in Coos County to 113% in Rockingham County.

To keep their housing costs below the 33% guideline, the National Low Income Housing Coalition also estimates that a worker would need an hourly wage of $16.55  for a 1-bedroom apartment and $21.09 for a 2-bedroom apartment. To meet the 33% guideline a minimum wage worker would need to work 91 hours a week for a 1-bedroom and 116 hours a week for a 2-bedroom apartment.

The New Hampshire Coalition to End Homelessness also highlighted another problem plaguing New Hampshire: a lack of affordable housing.  Nearly 30% of Granite Staters are renting and that means there is a very low “vacancy rate.” The vacancy rate is defined as “the percentage of available rental units in a given area.”  Statewide the vacancy rate is 1.5%, which leads many to struggle to find stable and affordable housing.

vacancy-rates

“These low vacancy rates further exacerbate the scarcity of affordable housing in these populous regions of the state, making it even more difficult for low income renters to find stable housing. The combined impact of rising rents and declining vacancy rates often leads many individuals and families to still live in temporary rooming houses or motels, often thought of as the housing of last resort by many advocates,” noted NHCEH. “These living environments can be particularly difficult for children and families who are forced to relinquish their privacy and to live in very cramped and sometimes unsafe quarters in order to maintain some semblance of shelter.”

These three factors (stagnant wages, high rent increases, and low vacancy rates) should be a warning sign to everyone that New Hampshire is teetering on the very edge of dramatic increase in the homeless population.  Many Granite Staters a struggling to hold on. In a 2013 survey, 76% of people national, said they are living paycheck-to-paycheck and more than 47% said they do not even have enough to cover a $400 emergency expense.

All it would take for many of these people is one incident, one missed paycheck to be in real danger of ending up homeless. If our goal is to completely eliminate homelessness, then we need to start by increasing wages, slowing the increasing cost of renting, and building more affordable housing across the state.

Dr. Kuhn summed it up perfect by saying:

“Once again, I am so proud of the excellent work being done by service providers, volunteers, advocates, policy makers, community leaders, and concerned citizens to end homelessness in our state. It is clear that our work is making an impact! Despite our progress, however, there are still far too many men, women and children who are homeless in New Hampshire. Over the next year, it will be important that we continue our commitment to permanently and immediately house anyone who falls into homelessness in New Hampshire. For our part, the Coalition remains steadfast in our belief that, together, we can and will end homelessness in New Hampshire, I invite you to join us as we work towards this achievable goal.”


Until we eliminate homelessness many find refuge in community shelters. These shelters are always in need of donations and here is a quick list of things, aside from food, your local shelter could use.

A list from the Homeless Shelter Directory:

Tooth Brush
Tooth Paste
Dental Floss
Bandaids
Underwear
Neosporin
Cortisone Cream
Cotton Swabs
Listerine
Deodorant
Razors
Nail Clippers
Baby Wipes
Thick Socks
Batteries
Feminine hygiene products
Anti-diarrhea tablets

(I would also add linens, pillows, and blankets)

The NH Charitable Foundation also released their list of 12 Things Food Pantries Wish They Had…But Might Not Ask For as a guide for donations.

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