Penacook expelled veteran to find new home in Manchester
After six months of searching for new accommodation, Penacook resident Earl Couch has finally found a new home in Manchester. On the date of his deportation, Oct. 1, Couch will move into an apartment that will allow the 74-year-old veteran to avoid homelessness and keep his three cats.
Even though finding this apartment is a victory that highlights the solid resources of New Hampshire veterans, Couch is disappointed to leave Penacook and Concord, where he was born and raised.
He started looking for a new apartment in April, after a new owner bought the five-unit building at 29 Washington St. and decided to evict the tenants to improve the rentals.
Merrimack County has a 0.4% vacancy rate, which means apartments are scarce even for people who can afford rents that have risen 20% in the past five years, according to the New Hampshire Housing 2021 Rent Survey.
Even with a housing voucher that covers a large chunk of his rent and the help of a social worker from the New Hampshire Department of Veterans Services, Couch found himself in a bind.
“You keep filling out applications and spending $ 30 here, $ 30 there, when you’re on a fixed income it adds up,” he said. “You’re just totally discouraged, you don’t know what to do or who to turn to or who to turn to. ”
In the most frustrating example, he was approved for a renovated apartment in Laconia and was only waiting for an inspection before he could move in when an electrical fire broke out in the attic and set the house on fire.
Couch had lived in Washington Street T2 for 13 years, paying $ 750 a month in rent for the apartment he shared with his late wife, Rose.
The walls are decorated with Native American art, a nod to Rose’s ancestry, including a photo of a cat in an Indigenous headdress that she spent a year giving as a Christmas present as she was in a retirement home. She passed away almost three years ago after more than 22 years of marriage.
“She’s in a better place,” he said. “I was ready to join her; I was getting to the point where I didn’t care.
He lived most of his life in Concord, apart from the three years he spent fighting in the Vietnam War. “It’s hard to uproot after such a long time,” he said.
Couch’s new apartment in Manchester is more expensive, with a monthly rent of $ 995 for a one-bedroom, but with his voucher, he’ll only pay $ 238.
The owner will also allow him to babysit his cats Meatball, Spiky and Lily, whom he calls his children.
“When I’m sick and I’m in bed, they’re there with me. They won’t leave me, ”he said. “This is what I want in life. At my age, 74, what the hell else do I have to live for? ”
If Couch hadn’t found the apartment in Manchester, he might have become a statistic: a homeless vet.
There are currently 104 homeless veterans in New Hampshire, which includes people in transitional housing, said David Tille, director of veterans services at Harbor Care in Nashua. Transitional housing, which comes with supportive services that make it a bridge to a more independent life, can last up to two years.
Ten of these veterans are not accommodated, in some cases because they have refused available accommodation options.
According to the most recent data provided by Tille, which does not differentiate between homeless and homeless veterans, there are three homeless vets in Merrimack County and one in Concord.
A constellation of federal and state programs and nonprofits are working to make homelessness for New Hampshire veterans as rare and brief as possible. Last year, New Hampshire became the first state where every mayor has pledged to end veteran homelessness.
“We believe that any veteran looking for housing should never be forced to sleep on the streets,” Tille said.
“Not only is it important, but it is achievable. It is something that we can achieve and we should make it our legacy to achieve.
Tille previously worked as the New England Regional Director for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, before joining Habor Care, which annually helps more than 400 veterans and their families find housing in part in managing accommodation for veterinarians and providing case management.
Tille says veterans face homelessness for some of the same reasons other people do, including a tight rental market. However, they may also experience additional challenges, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and service-related injuries. Veterans can also be independent in mind and be reluctant to ask for help.
The sofa fit into this mold.
“I was a little skeptical about asking for help; I am independent and alone, ”he said. “There comes a time when there’s a crisis and you need help, and the resources are there. And you pick up the phone.
Picking up the phone helped: His social worker at the New Hampshire Department of Veteran Services helped him find that apartment, and the agency paid the security deposit. He would advise his fellow veterinarians to do the same and seek out existing resources.
According to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, 82 communities and 3 states have met federal criteria to end veteran homelessness, including the city of Nashua, which announced it has effectively ended homelessness. veterans in 2017.
In these communities, there is no long-term or chronic homelessness among veterinarians, and those who become homeless can quickly access permanent housing in 90 days on average or sooner.
“That’s not to say that a veteran will never be homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, but if he does, there is a system in place,” Tille said. “We’re striving to accomplish this across the state of New Hampshire, and we’re getting close to that.”
Homeowners can help end homelessness for veterans by providing permanent housing, Tille said. The need is greatest in populated areas, where enough rentals are simply not available.
Homeowners can help homeowners by accepting HUD-VASH vouchers, which combine U.S. Department of Housing and Development vouchers with Veterans Administration case management to help the most vulnerable homeless vets.
Here in Concord, the police department is developing a model for cases where officers encounter people who have served in the military who are homeless. Deputy Chief Steven Smagula works with the Successful Life Partnership staff to coordinate the connection of homeless vets to resources.
Couch and a few friends will gradually move his belongings to Manchester in his truck before next Friday, when he will be locked out of his old apartment. He can’t wait to move into a new long-term home with his three “child” cats.
“I am excited,” he said. “I love it.”
The place he will move on October 1 has a tiled kitchen and a good sized bedroom.
He is the last person to stay in the building after his neighbors have been evicted. Couch said his U.S. Postal Service factor stopped delivering mail after learning no one lived there anymore.
The research took a long time in part because Couch has a limited income of just over $ 1,000 per month. Even if he has good housing, he can only use it for a fair market rental, as defined by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, the agency that subsidizes the vouchers.
Although he was eventually successful in finding a new home, he found the process of trying to stay in the town he grew up in maddening.
“These members of Congress, they don’t realize that if you have a person here who has a fixed income and you keep building these apartments, who can afford it?” Said sofa. “They talk about social housing; where is it? There are not any.”
He wonders about the people in the homeless camp at Exit 13, which was dismantled earlier this week to make way for a mixed-use development project. If he struggled to find a place, where will they go?
“There is going to be a war in this country between the rich and the poor, and the poor are going to win. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. More and more people are becoming homeless every day, ”he said.
If you are or know of a veteran who is currently homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, you can call the 211 hotline and request that homeless assistance be connected with local resources.