Families in Transition opens where other charity closed
By Michelle Kingston
DOVER — As one door closes, another one opens.
On Wednesday morning, a large red ribbon was cut with oversize scissors at 576 Central Ave., the old home of Our House for Girls and the new home for single, low-income women thanks to Families in Transition.
“It is kind of a bittersweet occasion that brings us here today,” Board Chair of Housing BeneFITs, Pauline Ikawa, said at the open house. “One organization closes a long, successful chapter in serving Dover, but we feel fortunate to be starting a new chapter in your community.”
Our House for Girls, once a place for young ladies with behavior issues, closed in the summer of 2012 due to a lack of funding, but Families in Transition President Maureen Beauregard said they will continue to recognize the hard work the organization did for Dover, as they open their nonprofit organization, which will provide what their 200 other housing units in Manchester and Concord give to tenants. FIT provides safe and affordable housing, along with case management, support groups, substance abuse programs, child and youth programs and skill-building workshops for individuals and families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
“I can just imagine the girls that have come through here and the differences you’ve made in their lives,” Beauregard said while looking around the renovated colonial, which was scrubbed, cleaned and painted by more than 194 volunteers since FIT purchased the home in the fall of 2012. “This program was very, very special and I personally feel that it is unfortunate that it ended. With that, we just really want to honor you and want to thank you for trusting us with the next chapter.”
Ikawa said volunteers contributed to the renovations of the home from Seacoast United Way, Dover Rotary Club, Hewlett Packard, John Hancock, Liberty Mutual, The Presidential Inauguration Committee, the U.S. Coast Guard, Workplace Success and individuals throughout the community.
FIT plans to open its doors to nine new women, with or without children, next month. The house has nine bedrooms, which will be filled, and several communal bathrooms and living rooms which will be used along with a large kitchen.
A few wooden tables and worn couches remain in the home from Our House for Girls, but FIT needs much more furniture and many appliances before welcoming the tenants.
To help make the house a home, FIT is looking for sheet sets, comforters, pillows, twin and toddler beds, bed bug covers, pillow case covers, plungers, flatware sets, measuring cups and spoons, can openers, glasses, baking sheets and pans, ladles, slotted spoons, spatulas, potato peelers, steak knife set, dish set, pot and pan sets and furniture.
The first Dover location for the organization will be FIT’s 16th property.
FIT started as one apartment building 21 years ago in Manchester with five homeless women and their children.
“Last year, in 2012, FIT received over 7,000 requests for assistance. We were able to help close to 500 of those requests,” Board Chair for Families in Transition, Karyn O’Neil said, adding that they were only able to help less than 10 percent of those who reached out, proving the need for more of this type of housing in New Hampshire.
Currently, according to FIT, there are 1,747 homeless children in the state. The high school graduation rate for homeless children is less than 25 percent.
Joe Carelli, president of Citizens Bank for New Hampshire and Vermont, is a strong supporter of FIT, who sees the need for transitional housing for homeless in the state.
“We’ve been able to see first hand how FIT has taken a holistic approach to helping, to not only stamp out the problems with affordable housing, but to also take a look at the deeper problems which are affecting the root causes around homeless today,” he said, adding that they have partnered with FIT for over a decade now.
“At any single night, there are over 180 individuals and families that now have a safe and affordable place to stay in New Hampshire,” he said. “What is even more incredible is that of those individuals that join the transitional housing program, over 80 percent of them find their way into permanent affordable housing through the holistic approach of training and education and support that FIT provides.”
“Times are so hard for those we serve,” Beauregard said about the low-income families and individuals they provide housing for.
According to FIT, a full-time worker earning a minimum wage cannot afford a one-bedroom apartment priced at the fair market rent anywhere in the country.
“Fortunately, Families in Transition not only understands this problem but has demonstrated a unique ability to address it,” Matt Leahy read off a letter written by U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.
“This project is one more example of the organization’s ability to lead the way on these complex issues,” Leahy read.
To learn how to volunteer or help furnish the home, or for more information regarding FIT, call (603) 641-9441 ext. 231 or email [email protected].