Viewpoint: Helping the needy find a home

Tuesday, July 18, 2017 10:26AM

Every year, the New Hampshire Coalition on Homelessness offers a report on the state’s residents who experience being homeless. These individuals or families are “people without a permanent, regular or adequate nighttime residence.” The numbers include those who are able to be in a shelter, as well as those who ‘bunk in’ with friends or other family members.

Also each year, the Bureau of Homeless and Housing Services conducts a “Point-in-Time Count” to learn the average number of people who are homeless in our state on a given day. (BHHS is part of the state Department of Health and Human Services.)

On January 25 of this year, that count showed that 644 people in 221 families, and 638 individuals were homeless but living in state or privately operated shelters, this included 127 veterans statewide. Beyond that, there were 138 individuals and 36 people in 17 families who all lived without shelter. There were also 136 individuals and 262 people in 88 families living doubled up with friends or other family members. The largest number of these people in all of the categories live in Hillsborough county.

The BHHS provides many statewide services through six Community Action Agencies and other non-profit providers around our state. The direct affect on those in need is greatly impacted by these services which might include preventing an individual or family from becoming homeless or by helping them to move into affordable housing. However, it is becoming increasingly expensive for some communities to provide this help.

In Peterborough, the Monadnock Area Transitional Shelter is one of the non-profits in New Hampshire that provides assistance for people experiencing homelessness. When a guest moves into MATS, they are asked to put aside a small fee (30% of their income, whatever that is) because according to the federal guidelines, a person should not spend more than 30% on housing, including utilities. This money is saved by MATS and then goes toward the guest’s first month’s rent when they move on, thereby forming a good habit for their future.

Other ways that MATS can assist these people is by teaching them good budgeting skills, helping them apply for food stamps and affordable housing in our area (the wait for which has doubled in time since 2009 – from 9 months to 18 months), having them attend The River Center where they can access a search program for a job, or a better job, or take classes on parenting. Our case manager, Susan Howard, and members of the MATS Board are also there to offer our guests support, and often friendship as well.

A brief note is that recently I read in The Week magazine about a London-based hairdresser who launched a SomethingForNothing campaign to encourage people to give back to those in need however they can. For this man, it means he travels around Europe and North America with a mobile hairdressing kit, giving hundreds of free haircuts to people you are homeless. “A haircut can boost a homeless person’s sense of dignity, and give them a chance to open up and tell their story,” he said. Kudos to him!

WISH LIST: reliable car for one of our current guests; bunk bed set (lightly used and easy to move, please); gift cards from local stores for our guests to use when they need supplies. Please call the MATS office at 924-5033 if you which to make a donation. Thank you very much!

Hope Pettegrew is a volunteer at the Monadnock Area Transitional Shelter.