In today’s Hell World a mutual aid volunteer in New Hampshire explains what happened when police forcibly evicted an encampment of unhoused people in Manchester on Friday. I also checked back in with our waterpark worker in Orlando about how things have gone since we last spoke, and for fun talked to another guy in Florida who went to high school with Ron DeSantis.
Thursday’s Hell World was for subscribers only. It was about Andrew Cuomo and Nancy Pelosi and Gavin Newsom and the rest of our “good” Democrat leaders sucking the most shit possible and the exploding death and sickness in El Paso and South Dakota and elsewhere. Subscribe to read it and everything else in the archives.
“It looks like clutter, man, but they pick up whatever they can to make them feel more human.”
It was just after a raid on an unhoused encampment by police in Manchester, New Hampshire on Friday and a young man named Manny was expressing his frustration with the amount of money and resources wasted on displacing people like himself instead of materially helping them.
“How many of these people have absolutely nothing? If you look at those trash bags over there, that’s not trash,” he said gesturing to where belongings had been disposed of by police, some of whom were wearing hazmat suits as if to hammer the cruel metaphor on its head.
“Some people’s stuff was taken away from them and put into dump trucks, into the trash,” Anna McGuiness of the New Hampshire Mutual Aid and Relief Fund, who was on hand at the camp all week, told me this morning. “Some people weren’t there to pack up their stuff because they were at work and their tents got slashed with knives and taken away in trucks.”
“Those are their lives,” Manny goes on in the video. “That’s homeless people’s lives, which they decide doesn’t matter. It’s crazy. Yeah we’re at the courthouse, it might not look the prettiest, but we’re doing the best we can with what we fucking have. There’s no resources for us. There’s nothing for us.”
“It would be nice if you solved the root of the problem,” another resident named Sam explained in a second video. “Lack of affordable housing and jobs and stuff like that, because me and my tentmate, we’re workaholics. He’s gonna come home, his home’s gonna be gone.”
“That’s a really expensive fence,” he said, gesturing to the one set up around the camp by police. “It’s a shame that the money wasn’t spent on, oh, I don’t know… maybe a place for us to go?”
Meanwhile a few of the unhoused and protestors and community aid organizers on hand were arrested, some violently, by police from various state and local forces.
While state and city officials claim that offers of help have been extended that does not seem to be the case as some living there have said.
“Many residents of the camp have communicated that no help from the state has been offered to them, or that the help offered was inaccessible to them,” a document outlining a list of demands from the unhoused community in Manchester shared by local aid organizations explains.
“While the state continues to claim they have offered beds to every person—camp residents continue to dispute them. A bed too far away from an individual’s job does not help. A bed with a curfew that conflicts with work shifts is not accessible. In some cases, sober living facilities are not an immediate option to people with untreated addiction, as many do not offer detox services and detoxing without medical care can be deadly.”
“I haven't been offered shit,” one resident of the camp explained via the document. “The food and [supplies] we've been getting the last few days have been the most we've gotten in a while."
“Where is all the money going?” asked another. “Where is the state and federal money? Where are the monetary donations that go to the shelters, and everything else? What we need is for the state, city, county, and feds to work together and decide just where we can go to, without fear of harassment, civil retaliation, and being arrested for sleeping. We need basic human, civil, and constitutional rights.”
For her part Manchester mayor Joyce Craig has expressed disapproval of the police action on Friday, which she explained “will disconnect individuals from services they’ve been receiving for months.”
Although she certainly seems to be somewhat more concerned with their well being than New Hampshire governor Chris Sununu that’s not exactly a high bar to cross.
“In the midst of a pandemic, when community spread is at an all time high, the state is forcing people to move throughout the city with no place to go — putting the health and safety of those living unsheltered and all Manchester residents at risk,” Craig said. “This action from the State is inhumane, causing trauma to individuals with nowhere else to go.”
To find out more about what’s been happening I spoke with Anna McGuiness of the New Hampshire Mutual Aid and Relief Fund, a group who run a free store that distributes necessities to the unhoused population in the state among other things.
For people who aren’t aware can you give us an overview of what’s going on up there?
It’s a long and complicated situation, but essentially, a couple of weeks ago there were eviction notices posted outside a large encampment of about forty unhoused people in downtown Manchester, outside the courthouse, which is state land. They were told the state police were going to come and forcibly evict anyone still there at the eviction date, which was last Monday. A bunch of organizations and activist groups got together to come protect the camp on Monday, evacuate anyone who wanted to be evacuated, try to get people into beds if they could, and try and hold off the state police. The police held off on Monday, but on Friday morning they came and tore down everyone’s tents and removed everyone.
Were they aggressive and violent?
They didn’t start by tearing things down. They told everyone you can start packing or we’ll help you pack. You can move or we’ll move you. If people didn’t immediately start packing, they would pack up their stuff for them. Some people’s stuff was taken away from them and put into dump trucks, into the trash. Some people weren’t there to pack up their stuff because they were at work and their tents got slashed with knives and taken away in trucks. There was one person who held their ground and refused to leave and he was arrested.
You were there for much of the week?
I was there for long periods of time every single day. I was there in the immediate aftermath and for a long time after the police came.
There’s a disagreement between the mayor and governor as I understand it? It seems Craig the mayor in Manchester seems to be somewhat sympathetic?
It kind of depends on who you ask what their opinion of Joyce Craig’s role in all of this is. Overall she’s sympathetic to the camp. She did not want them evicted. She asked multiple times for the state police to not come in, and for the Manchester police to not help. But she also didn’t help protect them or give them a place to go until it was already too late. The city gave them emergency housing at a local senior center, and a lot of them went to this new shelter that the fire department set up, but a lot of them don’t trust shelters, don’t like shelters for a lot of reasons, so they didn’t want to go to that. Especially a new one they’ve never heard of set up by the city. It’s not the city itself that destroyed their homes, but the city is the government, so…
What about Sununu is he being a shit head here?
He wasn’t sympathetic at all I don’t think to any of the people’s pleas for help. His party line has been: we’ve offered them beds and services and they won’t take them, so it’s ok if we remove them. He’s kept on saying they’ve had social workers on the ground, or people offering them beds on the ground all week, and it’s just a lie. It’s not true. I was on the ground for seven hours every day, other people I know were there for twelve hours every day, and nobody came to offer them beds. Not until right before the state troopers came.
Those aren’t permanent beds they’re offering, right? You go in for the night, then the next day you have nowhere to go again?
Exactly. Those are shelter beds. It’s a twelve hour stay. There are strict rules about what you can and can’t do there. There are sober beds as well, which is a problem for a lot of folks. They might go into withdrawal while there.
What are some of the unhoused people you’ve spoken to saying?
They’re very upset, obviously, to have lost their home and community. They all lived together. It was almost like a small township inside of Manchester. One person said, and it was such a beautiful thing to say, “When people are talking about the terms homeless versus unhoused…I already have a home. Now I need a house.”
I think a lot of them don’t want more shelter beds. That’s what I kept hearing. “We want permanent housing. We want a real place to live we can rely on, that we know we can go to every night. An address we can put on a job application.” They’re tired of moving all the time and being put out in the cold every single day.
Being unhoused in New Hampshire has to be pretty tough in the winter.
It’s freezing. There was a week already where it was in the twenties. We had hand warmers and stuff, but we were already worried about people getting hurt out in the cold and it’s only going to keep getting colder. And there are unhoused people in really rural areas here, in towns where there are only a couple of unhoused people. There’s not a lot of care given to those people either. It’s a real concern.
What is the practical solution here? For more affordable housing in the city to be opened up or built? What’s the political ask here?
I think that’s exactly the ask. For more and truly affordable housing that can be given to people in a no questions asked sort of way. Some of the buildings the city owns… There’s a building for sale that hasn’t been used in a long time right next to the courthouse and camp. I think it’s the old police station. So every day we’d look at this building that didn’t have anybody in it. That could house people.
Generally speaking, in the country at large, it’s so maddening to see all these buildings that are sitting empty — and especially during the pandemic with empty hotels too — and we just seem to refuse to want to do the right thing. We’d rather keep these buildings empty just on principle because we can’t give things away for… whatever reason.
It’s wild to see all of the empty buildings in Manchester and stuff that’s up for sale and know there are over four hundred people in the city that don’t have a place to go.
I saw some videos of the police abusing protestors.
There were some protestors who came from Boston yesterday. They were rattling the fence and trying to kick it in and doing their own thing in front of the courthouse. There was a situation where one of the officers tried to grab a young girl that was there. Everybody starting yelling. We watched as someone tried to perform a de-arrest. It didn’t work. Four state troopers essentially tackled him against a van then pinned him to the ground. There was another man with a megaphone who got arrested. They very aggressively tackled him up against a car.
What is it you all are looking for besides getting the message out to more people? What can people do?
I think at this point it’s going to be donations of supplies and money to local organizations who are helping unhoused people in Manchester. Some of these people had everything stolen from them. Some of them came back from work and it’s literally like if your house had been torn up from the ground. We’re going to need to replace everything for them.
My group does a free store every week right near where that encampment used to be where we pass stuff out for free to the unhoused in Manchester. So any money goes to buy stuff for the free store. If people can donates blankets and food and things that will get passed out too.
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After reading yesterday that Florida is still in fuck it mode when it comes to Covid I shared once again this Hell World piece by Jeb Lund from earlier in the summer — one of my favorites of the year — about the maddening frustration of trying to stay safe in a state whose governor has all but abandoned his people to death.
I was also reminded of this piece in which I interviewed a man in Florida about what it was like working at a waterpark during a pandemic.
I chatted with the waterpark worker again yesterday to check in.
How have things progressed, or devolved I suppose, since we last spoke?
An addendum to the whole ‘hired back as a seasonal employee’ thing I mentioned is that not only did I lose my dental and vision coverage, I stopped accruing paid time off days. So I worked the whole summer thinking I was banking some vacation, only to find out the other day that seasonal employees don't get any paid sick days.
When I asked about it, they said, and I quote, “Well, when you were hired back you signed some documents...”
Jesus Christ. What else has changed?
I anonymously reached out to corporate HR and ratted out my bosses. They got cussed out and they made some strict changes to the Covid rules like two weeks ago.
Keep in mind that the day after tomorrow is the end of the waterpark season, so 90% of the staff is getting laid off again along with most other service workers in Florida. Unemployment is about to spike.
It’s fucking awful man.
It’s all so terrible. It’s all I can think about. All those poor people going from working around crowds of dipshits to having to beg the government for a hundred bucks a week for food, and I’m “lucky” because I’m still getting hours here because I do maintenance.
So everyone you work with is fucked basically?
All the lifeguards laid off. All the custodians laid off. We’re going from a staff of 150 or so down to about eight, and that’s just my little shitty park. Disney and Universal are laying off tens of thousands of people but that’s “normal” because they lay them off every year around this time. Everyone I work with has to file for unemployment or go try and find a job at a grocery store or the Amazon warehouse.
How are people handling the pandemic at this point where you are?
Everyone has given up. It’s like 50/50 mask compliance in stores. I know people who have gone to weddings and who go to church every Sunday like normal, including going to lunch at fuckin buffet restaurants. Golden Corrals are packed on the weekends. It’s madness. And you can’t say shit to anyone. I have a pass to this botanical garden in downtown Orlando that I walk around at on my days off because it’s easy to avoid other humans there, and the other day I went there and they had the front doors bolted because there was this Pat Sajack-looking asshole with his wife and two kids who were making a scene because they wouldn't let them in without masks. The guy was ranting about how he was an epidemiologist and that we were all sheep and that masks are a placebo. Just bananapants.
What an asshole. Did anyone ever get sick at your park?
One of the guys in my department is currently home for two weeks because he tested positive. The only reason I know is because someone let it slip. They didn't make it public to anyone else who works here. I assume that means that there have been others.
Well you gotta keep that sweet water money rolling in.
Yup. I genuinely despise my bosses. I can't wait to find a different job so I can tell them to go fuck themselves.
You should take a big dump down the water slide.
lol. Most of the other facilities this company owns in other states didn’t open because the Covid restrictions made opening them not make any financial sense. But Florida is the wild wild west
Did you see this news?
I am now the Joker. I hope it melts his insides.
Speaking of Florida I also heard from a Twitter pal who went to high school with Ron DeSantis and immediately had to find out what that was like.
You went to school with DeSantis?!
My wife basically had a massive panic attack when she realized that DeSantis was THE DeSantis we grew up around. It’s finding out the guy who shouldn’t be trusted with a photocopier is now in control of your state.
Do you remember him at all?
Our biggest beef with him at the time, which admittedly is pretty tenuous, was that two of his friends who were sort of surf jocks eventually transitioned into white lace and braces “Nazis.” We just called them surf nazis because we were teenage punks. Most of the stories that anyone can remember are just people haranguing him with calls of “Deeeeeez nuuuuutz” across campus. A tiny part of my brain would love for him to find out someone still calls him “Ronald Deez Nuts” and maybe it hits his lizard brain in that soft spot.
Get his ass.
Well I suppose he got all your asses in the end actually.
He truly did lol. Nerds lose again.
I guess that’s one of those things I'm getting more used to as I get older, realizing that the people who were kids at the same time as me are now adults. Some of which are still assholes, but also in places of power. I guess I stupidly never made the connection that shit politicians have to come from somewhere.