On June 7th, Dr. Yvonne Vissing, a professor at Salem State University, addressed the Rotary Club of Nashua regarding homelessness in NH and Nashua.   Dr. Vissing is author of Out of Sight, Out of Mind – book focused on homelessness in small communities in New Hampshire.   What is homelessness?  majority of homeless people are families; no longer just a lone man or someone on skid row.  Many are working, at least part time, and many are unaccompanied minors.
Different definitions by different agencies.  HUD focuses on single adults with mental illness or substance abuse; driven by cost – cheaper to treat single person than treating a family.
What is needed for a good home?  Clothes, food, shelter, of course, but other things too.  It is where we belong in a community.  Fundamental to family stability and fundamental to building of strong communities. 
 
Do we as society have the will to do what it takes to fix the problem?
In NH, for example, in summer homeless will camp out and in winter perhaps pick up a rental off season; or live in the basement. 
 
There is a well-worn trajectory for downward spiral:  house, then to smaller home, then to apartment, to sharing apartments, to couch surfing, to car or street.
 
Homelessness viewed as fault of the homeless.  But this is stereotype. 
 
A homeless shelter is a sign that the community has decided that homelessness is acceptable.
There is a default to let someone else deal with homelessness.
 
It used to be that charities would deal with these types of issues, but the demand for help grew to be too much which is when government got involved. 
 
There is likely to be increase in homelessness in the coming year because stimulus from covid will be pulled back and evictions will soon resume. 
 
A huge difference between cannot and will not work.  Often the problem confronting homeless is the need for day care. 
 
Need to move away from criminalizing homeless.  It is not a crime to be poor; …or is it now?  Pushing homeless into criminal realm is itself costly – police, courts, jails. 
 
The concern here is especially for children.  Toxic trauma that comes from sustained instability.  Focus of new studies is whether a link can be found between homelessness early in life and opioid use later in life.
 
No systemic effort to solve homelessness and invest to give everyone sense of belonging and community.
 
Question: how does Dr. Vissing recommend we help people in need? 
  • Need to look at longer mortgage periods.  60 years instead of 30?
  • Keep in mind that keeping people invested in community; that is valuable to have ownership.
  • Different kind of insurance?   Insurance to cover mortgages if you get sick for short period.
  • The current situation threatens NH to become a geriatric state like Iowa or Maine.  
Mike Apfelberg:  Wanted to make clear that many organizations at the table for homelessness in Nashua and that he can help people connect who want to get involved.  
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