Fewer shelter beds will be available in Manchester, but other shelters are at capacity too

The New Hampshire Union Leader
Josie Albertson-Grove
September 27, 2019

MANCHESTER — Families in Transition-New Horizons is cutting the number of shelter beds that will be available on Oct. 1, from more than 150 to just 108.

Mayor Joyce Craig is urging other shelters to open more beds to make up for what will likely be a shortage of beds.

“Communities need to be aware of this, and open emergency beds in their own communities,” she said Wednesday.

The Manchester emergency shelter has been packed — unusual for the warm summer months. One rainy night in August saw 163 people sleeping there, in proper beds and in overflow matresses on the dining room floor.

Michele Talwani, a spokeswoman for Families in Transition-New Horizons, said starting Oct. 1, there will not be any overflow beds: just the 108 beds. Talwani said these beds include the 24 beds that were intended to be for people in recovery. But the organization has not yet received the state funding to staff that recovery section, so the 24 beds will be part of the emergency shelter.

Talwani said Families in Transition-New Horizons chose to limit the number of beds to make sure there were enough staff to keep everyone in the shelter safe.

In the winter, the shelter will temporarily add 30 overflow beds. The organization has to hire several people to oversee those beds. Talwani said Families in Transition-New Horizons has allocated some of its budget to pay these additional workers, but said the shelter may not have the money to provide any overflow beds next winter.

Other communities who may be sending residents to Manchester should help fill the gap by providing more emergency shelter beds, Craig said.

But shelter providers in other areas of the state also feel they are operating at capacity.

Martha Stone, the executive director of the Cross Roads Shelter, a 96-bed emergency shelter in Portsmouth, said those beds are full.

“It’s not as if there are other shelters around the state that have empty beds they can reassign,” she said. “It would be difficult for us to absorb extra folks at this time.”

The shelter is usually at capacity, Stone said, and has a long waiting list. There is space for 11 families, she said, and 38 families are waiting. There are 40 single men and 60 single women also on the wait list for a bed in the shelter.

“Many communities are facing situations similar to Manchester,” Stone said, as communities across New Hampshire grapple with the rising cost of housing and substance abuse.

Michael Leuchtenberger, chair of the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness board, said different communities have different focuses — for example, the Concord coalition has closed its year-round emergency shelter to focus on providing long-term housing.

“As we all learn how to respond to the crisis of people experiencing homelessness, we will develop the resources throughout the state that are needed to address this effectively,” he said. But it is not easy for anyone, he said.

“Every community seems to be in a similar way.”

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