Church Looks to Address Homeless Issues within the Community

by Andrea Ganley-Dannewitz

The mobile home that was donated by the Greater Salem Exchange Club for the purpose of housing a family in need.

During these very trying economic times where jobs are being lost every day and homes are continuing to fall into foreclosure, homelessness is on the rise.

“We haven’t typically seen this in our area in the past.  Not in the numbers seen in the larger cities,” said Reverend David Yasenka of the Triumphant Cross Lutheran Church.  Reverend Yasenka has founded a committee at the church to deal with affordable housing, temporary shelter, and emergency homeless services’ issues within the Greater Salem area.

The Greater Salem Exchange Club donated a mobile home to Triumphant Cross for the purpose of housing a family in need.  The home is in very nice condition and was formerly used by Salem police as the Family Visitation Center that was located at Salem Police Department.

Reverend Yasenka is currently looking for a location to set up the home and offer it to a family who needs it.  Other possible uses for the mobile home that have been discussed among the Triumphant Cross committee is to use it as either an office space to coordinate services and offer emergency services to the homeless or to use it as an emergency homeless center.

The project being headed up by Triumphant Cross is creating awareness of homelessness and providing services to the homeless in the Salem area.  The project has been underway for over 10 years, according to Yasenka.  Reverend Yasenka is determined to get the church’s first major project – the mobile home – going as soon as possible.  He cites the ever-increasing numbers of homeless families in southern Rockingham County.

“The non-typical homeless persons are those who lost their jobs and are unable to find work with an adequate (living wage) income.  This is the biggest problem we are seeing, as many are just not able to pay for their homes any longer,” Yasenka said.

The Triumphant Cross Lutheran Church has been very involved with assisting homeless people within the Salem area.  Last winter, the church granted permission to several homeless individuals to use their parking lot as a place to spend the night, and on very cold nights the church opened its doors to those left out in the cold, offering up any available couches and such for those without shelter to have a warm place to sleep.

Triumphant Cross also hosts the Bread of Life food pantry every Monday from 9 to 11 a.m.  During the month of May, Reverend Yasenka said the pantry assisted 88 families consisting of 260 individuals.  And that need for assistance just continues to rise.

Reverend Yasenka released a statement in late June regarding the efforts of the church with homeless awareness issues and his project to improve services to those in need within the community …

“Churches, social service providers, the courts, and law enforcement are experiencing increased effects of the problem related to the lack of affordable housing and homelessness in our communities in Rockingham County.  According to the law in New Hampshire, each community has a responsibility toward those who find themselves homeless.

In my recent experiences in working with individuals who are homeless, the biggest problem is lack of work that provides an income adequate for housing costs in this area.  Most of these people would be fine if they were working and the pay was of living wage.  The other group of people is those who, for various reasons, are experiencing homelessness.  Some of these are the chronic homeless.  I find these people to be far less in numbers in our area than in larger urban areas; however, their numbers have been increasing.  We need to work on programs for them, their safety, and the safety of the community.  Community organizations like CLM (Center for Life Management) have very good resources that can be helpful for this segment of the population who often have emotional and/or psychological issues along with homelessness.

Protocol for how the police deal with the chronic homeless, as well as those who find themselves homeless for the first time and have no idea where to turn for help, needs to be reviewed.  Current protocol should be based on current findings of what works best in order to provide the best possible way of helping those who find themselves homeless.

The segment of the homeless population that I see the mobile home fitting into is related to those in need of transitional housing.  I would like to see the home functioning as a place for individuals or a family to be able to live safely and comfortably for four to six months.  During this time, the individuals or family would agree to receive education and counseling that would enable them to get back on their feet and become productive participants in the community.  They would receive coordinated services that would help move in a positive direction with their lives.

Through a newly organized Local Service Delivery Area (LSDA), we will be able to coordinate the services of state, federal and local aid, as well as that of the various non-profits and church organizations and businesses which are currently helping with this issue.

This one home will not solve all of our adequate housing issues but it will be a very good beginning.  It is manageable and achievable.  We need the support of local government, social services, churches, businesses, and individuals.  We now need to make this project a reality.”

Anyone who may know of possible locations for this mobile home, or to join the effort to improve services and hope for homeless individuals and families, contact Reverend David Yasenka at 235-5178 or by e-mail at

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

by Jay Hobson

25 School St. Before tree removal

25 School St. After tree removal

This story started out easy enough.  A reporter, me, gets a tip about a nice heartwarming story of people caring about and helping other people.  With all the bad and negative news in the press lately — foreclosures, stocks down, unemployment and gas prices up — a story about the Knights of Columbus donating a wheelchair ramp to an elderly couple, and a tree service donating their services to clear the way for the ramp to help the K of C accomplish their good deed, seemed just what the doctor ordered.  I mean, really.  Usually a story of this kind involves a person or organization helping another person or organization and would be great on its own, but this is even better.  A town selectman and other residents helped an organization (Stacey’s Tree Service) help another organization (Knights of Columbus) help a family.  This is going to be great!  We’re talking good deeds in abundance here.

That’s how it was supposed to be.  In reality, it went off without a hitch — almost.

Selectman Pat Hargreaves and the other volunteers, including Stacey’s Tree Service, arrived at 25 School St. around 7 a.m. and began the work of clearing the trees and brush that completely hid the house from the street and prevented the installation of the wheelchair ramp, began chipping the downed limbs.

“We got there about 7:00 and were finishing up about 9:00 when a cop showed up and said we had to shut down because the chipper was in the street and we needed a detail,” Hargreaves said.

But that’s not where the chipper was all morning.  It was beside the house well off the roadway until, while getting ready to leave, some residual branches were discovered.  With the work almost done at around 9 a.m., Kevin Stacey of Stacey’s Tree Service pulled his truck and chipper to the front of the house and prepared to leave the site when someone noticed a few branches that were overlooked during the chipping process.

“I’m well aware of the police requirement for a detail and I drove the equipment completely off the road and was along the side of the house.  Basically, the job was completed, you know, was incident free, and I pulled out into the street because I was getting ready to leave.  At the time, someone said there was a woman there, possibly a volunteer who had coffee, and I stopped the truck and was going to have a cup of coffee,” Stacey said.  While Stacey got his cup of coffee, several volunteers started chipping the errant branches, a chore that would ultimately take about 10 minutes.

Enter the cop.

A police officer, while on routine patrol cruising the town’s streets, noticed the chipper (that all morning was on the side of the house) on the side of the road and employees of the tree service directing the cars on this back road around the truck.  The officer then stops his cruiser and informs the crew that the operation needs to shut down as there is no “detail” present to direct traffic.

“I told the officer that we were only going to be about 10 minutes and the officer insisted that we shut down because we didn’t have a detail.  I told the crew to shut down and ‘let’s get out of here’,” Hargreaves said.  Hargreaves also stated that a detail for 10 minutes is unwarranted.

“I couldn’t believe it.  Ten minutes!  A detail for ten minutes is ridiculous.  I told the officer that if that was policy of the town that, as a selectman, I would contact Town Manager Jonathan Sistare about details for ten minute jobs needing to be reviewed as policy,” Hargreaves said.

Enter the reporter.

As all good reporters are wont to do, finding the truth is foremost on our agenda.  Not knowing all this had transpired, I arrived to take the obligatory pictures and interview the volunteers; however, when I arrived at about 10 a.m. there wasn’t a soul around.  I called my contact, Frieda Smith, and inquired what had happened.

“They shut us down.  It was awful,” Smith said.

“Who shut you down?”

“The police.”

“The police?  What were you doing?”

“The chipper was in the road,” Smith said.

“Okay, this just went from a feel-good story to a news story.  Thanks for your time, Frieda.”

I then called the police on the business line and was told that the supervisor, known as the shift commander, was busy and that he would receive the message that I called and would get back to me.  I called Pat Hargreaves, my original contact, to inquire about the ‘incident’.  “We were essentially done.  We were getting ready to leave when we noticed these few overlooked branches and decided to chip ‘em up before we left, but the cop showed up and started ordering us to shut down.  I explained it would only be about 10 minutes but he kept ordering us to shut down because there was no detail, so we shut everything down and left,” Hargreaves said.  A little while later the return call from the police came.  Shift Commander Lt. Steve Malisos said, “We didn’t shut them down.  Officer White informed them that a detail was needed when the vehicle was in the street blocking traffic.  It was up to them to decide to move the truck or shut down.  No one called us to let us know that work was going on over there.  If they had, we would have sent someone over to do the detail.”

Enter the Police Chief.  (The plot thickens)

A few days later, this reporter is contacted by a reporter from a larger publication (okay, the Union Leader) who informs me of a letter from the police chief to the town manager complaining that a selectman had abused his power by dropping the ‘S’ bomb on the cop (‘Selectman’ - not the other one) and that the selectman had contacted the press, namely the Salem Community Patriot, in order to complain about the police, clearly referring to yours truly.  Well, as a member of the press who covers the selectmen and other groups in town, with all due respect to the powers that be, the word “selectman” and $1.89 will get you a cup of coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts, but nothing more (and you’d better have the $1.89), and everyone knows it.  No one knows that better than a cop.  Cops are well-versed in the chain of command.

Now because of the aforementioned letter, Selectman Pat Hargreaves is to endure a “disciplinary hearing” on July 13 at 7 p.m.  Well, the fact is Pat Hargreaves never contacted me; I contacted him.  I heard of the supposed shut-down from Frieda Smith, whom I also called, and I heard of the detail policy from the police, whom I also called (okay, they called me back, but I initiated the call).

The abuse of authority charge is clearly police smoke-blowing if what Hargreaves told me is true regarding the ‘selectman/town manager call statement’ and in all my dealings thus far with selectmen, fire chief, and others, they have always been truthful with me, and I am very cynical when it comes to elected officials and check everything.  I have the nasty habit of believing that if a politician’s lips are moving, then there’s a lie in there somewhere.  Happily, not true with Salem’s leaders — so far.  Then again, the police….

Pet Food Drive at Rockingham Park a Huge Success

Reggie the Sheltie with some of the 5,000 pounds of donations to the Rockingham Park Pet Food Drive

The second annual Rockingham Park Pet Food Drive to benefit the New Hampshire Food Bank, held over the July 4th holiday weekend, to help families in need keep their beloved companion animals from going hungry, exceeded all expectations and was an even bigger success than last year’s stellar effort.

While the exact total won’t be known until the NH Food Bank collects and weighs the donations, Rockingham Park officials estimate that more than 5,000 pounds of pet food was contributed by all segments of the community over the three-day weekend.  Last year, 3,000 pounds of dog and cat food were donated to the effort on the same holiday weekend.

“This outpouring of generosity and compassion for animals who are suffering is astonishing, especially considering the current state of the economy,” said Lynne Snierson, Rockingham Park’s director of communications and marketing.  “All segments of the community came together to open their hearts and their wallets, and it is indeed heartwarming to know that, even in these tough times, people still possess an abundance of kindness and caring.”

Food pantries in the Granite State and all over the country are experiencing a dramatic increase in demand for pet food while their supplies and donations continue to shrink.  Not only are people having a difficult time feeding their families, but their pets have to do without as well.  The NH Food Bank is being besieged with requests for pet food at all of its outlets, and the need is growing.  The need has become so great that many people are forced to make the heartbreaking decision to surrender their beloved household pets because they can no longer afford basic dog or cat food.  With shelters and animal welfare agencies already overburdened and underfunded, the situation is dire.

Jockeys with some of the donated food

“We are all animal lovers at Rockingham Park,” said Snierson.  “We are gratified to be able to provide some relief, in what has become a crisis situation, so that those in need can keep their pets, who are their best friends, in their homes.”

Rockingham Park also provided the opportunity for racehorse and greyhound retirement foundations and the Salem Animal Rescue League to be at the track on Saturday and Sunday so that interested people could learn more about adopting pets or racing animals after their careers on the track are completed.  Several of the dogs who were up for adoption successfully found new homes and loving families at the event, and many more people made appointments to visit with available cats, dogs, and horses.

The entire community rallied together to support the Pet Food Drive, and donations poured in from a variety of sources.  PetSmart, Dodge Grain Company, Sea World Pet Center, Target, and Shaw’s Supermarkets, all in Salem, Hannaford’s in Hampstead, Woof It Down Pet Store in Windham, the Veterinary Emergency Center of Manchester, private citizens, the horsemen at the racetrack, racing fans, and the employees and staff of Rockingham Park all contributed generously.  Clear Channel Radio, Entercom Communications, 92.5 FM, The River, and WGAM Radio also donated time and talent.

Rockingham Park, which has been a fixture in New Hampshire and the Salem community for 103 years, is the only horseracing track in the Granite State.  Rockingham has conducted live thoroughbred and standardbred meets throughout its history and is currently racing harness horses four days per week through August 30.  The track also offers full card thoroughbred, harness, and greyhound simulcasting, plus charitable poker, blackjack, craps, roulette, and bingo seven days per week.

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