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Statistics on homelessness

The facts in this article are all taken from the state’s annual report, The State of Homelessness in New Hampshire for the year 2012-2013. Please note that the statistics in these reports always lag behind by one year.

The annual one-day count of people who are homeless in New Hampshire happens every year in January. That “point-in-time” count for 2013 was 1,685 people who were experiencing homelessness. Of that number, 44 percent were families with children; said a different way, there were 748 people who were part of 254 households. This figure does not include people who are living with friends and/or family members. Yet during the same time, “the economy has begun to slowly recover and the state has shown a gradual decrease” in families who are homeless.

Another statistic showed that approximately one quarter of these people are considered chronically homeless, which the state defines as “an individual or a family with at least one disabled adult who has been continuously homeless for over one year.” The number of people fitting this description in Hillsborough County has increased by 100 percent over the past three years.

A family’s lack of stable housing can impact the children significantly as they might experience the need to repeat a grade, suffer suspensions or be expelled. During the 2012-2013 school-year, the number of students affected in this way rose from 3,164 to 3,417 statewide.

Of the state’s ten counties, Hillsborough County showed a 12.41 percent decrease in the number of people who are homeless between 2011 and 2013 — a good thing, yet at the Monadnock Area Transitional Shelter in Peterborough, we continue to receive several calls for shelter each month. Last month, we received calls from the town welfare officers in Bennington and Jaffrey, the homelessness liaisons at the ConVal and Keene school districts, a social worker in Keene, three single mothers, and one man whom our case manager referred to the men’s shelter in Keene. Seven families are currently applying to MATS for shelter.

The majority of people who are homeless in our state do have some kind of shelter — at a state-run or private shelter, in the homes of family or friends, or in the person’s or family’s car. In the major cities, however, a great portion of the homeless still live on the street. The “unsheltered homeless population” state-wide did increase by nine percent from 2011 to 2013, though not locally in Hillsborough County.

The good news is that New Hampshire has the lowest poverty rate in the country, a little more than eight percent. Yet, the cost of renting an apartment continues to rise even though a family’s income may not. In Hillsborough County, for instance, the average cost of two-bedroom apartment is now $1,090 per month, or an increase of 1.21 percent. While some family incomes have risen, the increase has only been a little over two percent, making it still difficult to have extra money available for other necessities such as clothing and car repairs. This causes many people to “double-up with friends or family due to their economic need, making them often just one step away from entrance into the homeless services system.” There has been a 50 percent increase of individual and/or families in this situation in Hillsborough County.

At MATS, and through our case manager’s intervention work at The River Center, we continue to strive to help our neighbors in need.

Our wish list: a reliable car; toddler bed; diapers of any size, especially newborn and size 2. Thank you.

Hope Pettegrew of Hancock is a former board member but remains a volunteer for MATS. MATS is a transitional shelter, not an emergency shelter. MATS collaborates with The River Center.

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