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July 08. 2013 1:26PM

Manchester homeless shelter evacuated after water line ruptures

MANCHESTER — The city's largest homeless shelter had to be evacuated after a water pipe ruptured overnight; residents will have to use porta potties until repairs are made.

New Horizons for New Hampshire expected to be serving pizza at its soup kitchen Monday evening, said Executive Director Charlie Sherman. The shelter typically serves about 220 meals a day, but without water it would be difficult to prepare a meal and wash dishes.

The only New Horizon service available this morning was the food pantry.

"Because there's no water going into the building, we're basically out of business for the day," Sherman said late this morning.

He said the pipe — a main with a diameter of about 6 inches — ruptured about 11:45 p.m. Sunday. That meant sprinklers would not be able to operate, so just about all of the 55 overnight residents were sent out to the streets.

Jeremy Thompson, who has been living at the shelter for about a year, said he was roused about 1 a.m.

He hung out at a city park for a few hours, then went to the homeless day shelter when it opened.

"I didn't get any sleep. I just walked around," he said. The night-time low temperature was in the 70s, said New Horizons program director Kevin Kintner.

Manchester firefighters connected a hose from a nearby hydrant to a fire plug in the building, which made the sprinklers operative. By late morning, they were hooking on a second hose to provide water for the bathroom and kitchen.

Meanwhile, two portable toilets were placed in the parking lot.

The rupture flooded the basement of the Manchester street shelter with about 3 inches of water, said New Horizons maintenance assistant Dennis Grogan. However, offices of case management workers and the Healthcare for the Homeless remained dry.

Sherman said he was working on providing a meal that did not have to be prepared on-site, such as pizza. And paper plates and plastic utensils would be used.

He attributed the rupture to the age of the pipe. He predicted it would cost thousands of dollars to repair. If the part is available, it could be fixed today. If not, fire hoses would have to continue to supply water.

With sprinkler service and portable toilets, Sherman said it was likely that people would be able to sleep at the shelter tonight. He said New Horizons does not have a contingency plan for warm weather months, and during the winter his only contingency is with the day shelter, which can house 20 people if New Horizons is full.

Sherman said if the weather is unsettled, more people will stay overnight at the shelter. He said the rains and thunderstorms predicted for tonight could result in more people at the shelter.

"The whole idea is to get them in, not get them out," he said.

Todd Hairgrow, 47, was one of four disabled residents who were able to remain in the building Sunday night. He uses a walker and suffers from complications related to a stroke, he said.

Kintner said the disabled residents remained with a staff member.

Hairgrow said he had a breakfast of peanut butter sandwiches and bottled iced tea, then had to leave.

"Right now, we're pretty much at the mercy of the fire department," said Hairgrow, as firefighters worked to provide a temporary water supply.

mhayward@unionleader.com


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