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HOMELESSNESS

Homelessness increases significantly in N.H., report shows

The New Hampshire Coalition to End Homelessness found that homelessness is on the rise in New Hampshire, with the number people who are unsheltered more than doubling between 2019 and 2022.

Jefferson, who spent over a decade being unhoused and has recently found a place to live, stands outside a new shelter for homeless people in Manchester, N.H., that is aimed at reducing barriers and providing services to address housing, employment, mental health, and substance use recovery.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

CONCORD, N.H. — There was a “marked” increase in homelessness from 2021 to 2022 in New Hampshire, according to the newly released annual report by the New Hampshire Coalition to End Homelessness.

The report also found troubling increases in two types of homelessness where people are particularly vulnerable: chronic homelessness, lasting for at least a year among people with a disabling condition, and unsheltered homelessness, as more people reside in cars, parks, abandoned buildings, or campgrounds without a traditional source of shelter.

Unsheltered homelessness more than doubled between 2019 to 2022, the report found, based on an analysis of an annual count of homeless individuals taken in January. In 2019, there were 147 individuals experiencing unsheltered homelessness. By 2022, that number had grown to 331 — a 125 percent increase.

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“This report reveals concerning trends that should serve as an urgent call to action to increase supports that can resolve and prevent homeless experiences,” said Jennifer Chisholm, executive director of the New Hampshire Coalition to End Homelessness, in a written statement accompanying the report’s release.

She credited federal pandemic-aid programs with decreasing homelessness in 2021 and said those initiatives prove that interventions work.

Chronic homelessness in New Hampshire grew at nearly twice the rate than it did nationwide from 2020 to 2022, according to more comprehensive statewide data from the Homeless Management Information System. It increased 86 percent from 2021 to 2022 and was identified as an area of “critical concern” by the report.

Overall, that data showed a 28 percent increase in homelessness, from 4,682 individuals in 2021 to 6,031 in 2022.

People who are unsheltered have a higher prevalence of substance use disorder, serious mental illness, and chronic health problems compared to people living in shelters, according to several studies. The report said homelessness doesn’t necessarily occur because of these problems, but rather these problems are often made worse by living without shelter and can put people at risk for premature death.

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In light of these trends, the National Alliance to End Homelessness called for more federal funding to address the problem.

“The data is clear that we need dramatically greater federal resources for those experiencing chronic and unsheltered homelessness and a greater commitment to affordable housing for everyone,” said Ann Olivia, the CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

The report pointed to a lack of affordable housing as one of the main contributors to homelessness in New Hampshire. While a 5 percent vacancy rate is considered ideal, in 2022, New Hampshire’s statewide vacancy rate was just 0.5 percent. And it said housing costs are growing faster than wages are increasing, which keeps housing out of reach for too many.

While the statewide median rental for a two-bedroom including utilities was $1,296 in 2018, in 2022 it had risen to $1,584. “Housing in New Hampshire is financially out of reach for many Granite Staters,” the report found.

“Increasing the availability of affordable housing is a crucial element to solving this crisis,” said Chisholm.


Amanda Gokee can be reached at amanda.gokee@globe.com. Follow her @amanda_gokee.