Beauregard’s personal story guides her work with Manchester’s homeless
MANCHESTER — When Maureen Beauregard works with homeless families, she often sees her own face and those of her sisters and brothers.
The president of Families in Transition — New Horizons sometimes shares stories with them about growing up when “there were times when we didn’t have a place to live; we didn’t have shelters, so we moved here, here, here and here.”
But there is so much more to her story.
When Beauregard was 5, “one day, some pretty horrific thing happened,” Beauregard, 55, recalled in an interview Friday. “It lives with me every day, and it makes me do what I do.”
The Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce last week named Beauregard its citizen of the year and will honor her at a dinner April 19.
Beauregard said she was injured “very much so, yes, extremely” and placed in foster care, along with two of four siblings while two other siblings got adopted.
“I think people can kind of guess about the details of this story, but I think it’s important to be able to say out loud that these things happen, and whether you’re in foster care or you live in the best part of town, there are things that kids go through,” Beauregard said.
That perspective informs her work.
“When I think about the kids that come through Families in Transition, I know them. I know them and I know these adults and I know that they could be my brother, they could be my sister, and to me, it’s really important that people know that their lives aren’t wasted,” Beauregard said.
“Every kid deserves at least one person that is going to love them and be there for them and protect them, and that was not present for myself nor my siblings,” she said.
Life was terrible with her parents, and life was terrible in foster care, said Beauregard, who coped by turning to drugs and alcohol. She described herself as “a person in long-term recovery.”
Beauregard is married to Donna Beauregard and they have three children.
Beauregard, who will move from Strafford to Manchester in the coming months, has been working to help the homeless for 27 years. Today, her organization assists around 600 people a year, about half of whom are children.
“We get the folks that really fall through the safety net,” Beauregard said.
The nonprofit owns about two dozen pieces of real estate and more than 200 housing units.
“Whenever we build a building, whether we build it from the ground up or we be renovate it, I always look at it through the eyes of a child and I always say to myself if I were that kid, would I want to live here.”
More than 5,000 people are referred to Families in Transition a year, but it can only help about 600.
The recent merger of FiT and New Horizons, a homeless shelter that also supplies meals, will mean joining forces to better tackle the homeless problem.
“I feel like these 27 years have been about taking pieces of a puzzle and putting them all in a box, and now all the pieces are on the table and now we can assemble the puzzle,” she said. “I think that in three to five years, I think that the homeless issue in Manchester is absolutely going to shift for the better, and I anticipate really good things for those who serve.”
She said the merged organization can better analyze why people are hanging out around the city and will be able to offer more opportunities. Five years from now, she sees herself “right where I am.”
Beauregard said she needs to run the nonprofit like a business.
“If we’re not a business first, we’re not here for our mission,” she said. “If we don’t have our house in order, we’re not going to be here.”
One thing pushing more nonprofits to merge is donors “want to give once, and they want to give to like causes, and they want organizations that are successful,” she said.
As for what advice she could offer people in difficult places?
“Never ever, ever count yourself out, and don’t let people assign roles to you,” Beauregard said. “Don’t let people assign your hopes and dreams, honestly.”
Chamber President and CEO Mike Skelton said Beauregard tackles her work with “a very optimistic, hopeful, positive vision.”
Dick Anagnost, a former citizen-of-the-year award winner and co-chair of the board of Families in Transition — New Horizons, said Beauregard deals with everyone that no one else wants to deal with.
“She is the ultimate success story,” Anagnost said.