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Rochester residents turn out to protest town's tenting ban, support homeless population

Union Leader Correspondent

July 21. 2018 10:48PM

ROCHESTER - About a dozen people turned out Friday afternoon to protest Rochester's tenting ban and support the homeless community.

Standing in front of city hall, resident Wes Foierl said rents are high in the Lilac City and officials should open public land instead of fining homeless individuals $100 for pitching a tent.

The Rochester City Council passed the controversial ban in March. It prohibits people from sleeping in a tent or vehicle on city-owned property.

Jacob Locke of Alton said Rochester officials nip creative solutions in the bud using the guise of "public safety" with the ban. He said there have been efforts to create private boarding houses or open churches for overnight stays.

Locke thinks Rochester officials look down their noses at some segments of the population.

"They don't have loving hearts for all people," Locke said. He said he prays for them to change their minds.

Organizer Don McCullough of Dover works at the Tri-City Co-op in Rochester and was a firefighter in both communities before he retired.

McCullough said as a firefighter he did interact with the homeless population during emergency calls over his 33 years of service, but now he sees the complexity of issues surrounding the problem in a whole new light.

"I've really gotten to know and love these people. It's painful to close the doors at 4:30 every afternoon and watch them wander out into the night," McCullough said.

Three of the co-op's clients died in the woods between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, McCullough said.

McCullough said he organized the protest to let city officials know they have a duty to take care of the poorest members of their community and to give homeless individuals a voice.

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