The cold realities of winter
As the recent severe winter weather assailed our area, we continue to be concerned about those who do not have shelter locally. How are they surviving? Campgrounds are closed and tents in the woods or vehicles cannot provide the kind of protection people who are homeless need during the winter. There are emergency shelters in Keene where a van searches known areas for people without shelter, and transports them to a warm haven for a night or two. This happens regularly in large cities, such as Boston, also.
At the Monadnock Area Transitional Shelter, also known as MATS, in Peterborough, we receive an average of 15 calls each month; the number of individuals and families with that need continues to increase. As our name implies, MATS is not an emergency shelter, but rather is transitional for those who need to stay for a period of time. In addition to shelter, our guests may take advantage of the two local food pantries to help them make ends meet: the Monadnock Area Food Pantry at All Saints Church and The Peterborough Food Pantry at the former armory. Both pantries serve hundreds of local regular clients – large families with children of all ages as well as couples and individuals over 65. The staggering number of our neighbors who access these programs points to a growing need in this area.
According to their web site, the New Hampshire Bureau of Homeless and Housing Services funds six transitional programs around New Hampshire, and many more emergency shelters; the latter serve several hundred people on any given night. MATS, as one of the many privately run transitional shelters in the state, accepts no state or federal money, relying on the generosity of citizens, clubs, churches and grants to run our shelter. All of these sources have been generous indeed, allowing us to continually manage our shelter since February of 1991, along with the very compassionate and special guidance of our case manager. She encourages our guests to take advantage of all programs that are available to them, both from the state and at The River Center where programs for employment search, free tax preparation, and self-help programs are offered.
Lack of employment is one major cause of poverty. Yet even with jobs people often need to seek shelter. Some emergency shelters provide only the most basic need – a warm bed for the night – while others might include meals, assistance finding affordable housing and/or comprehensive case management to assess needs and develop a plan to move out of homelessness.
Another kind of shelters, known as Specialty Shelters, are run by the state. These provide emergency help to specific sub groups of the homeless population to meet their specific needs. There are six specialty shelters in New Hampshire serving individuals recovering from substance abuse (3), youth who are homeless (1), pregnant women (1) and female ex-offenders (1). Victims of domestic violence, predominately women and children, receive emergency and transitional shelter as well as critical support services through these shelters.
Even with the many shelters and food pantries around the state, it is hard to remember that there are people living on the edge. Certainly, at MATS we wish we could help all of them, especially when the temperatures are in the low figures or snow accumulates to two or more feet.
Wish list: a reliable car, a car battery starter, gift cards from CVS, RiteAid, WalMart, Ocean Job Lots are always welcome. Please call the MATS office at 924-5033 if you wish to donate any of these items.
Nancy Perkins of Peterborough and Hope Pettegrew of Hancock are former board members but remain volunteers for MATS.