Manchester homeless shelter changes some services as number seeking help grows

WMUR
September 24, 2019
Tim Callery

MANCHESTER, N.H. —

An increase in Manchester’s homeless population is prompting the city’s only shelter to adjust some of its programs as it struggles to provide help to those who need it.

Officials with Families in Transition-New Horizons said this is the first time they have had to make such changes, but they said something needed to be done to allow them to continue to safely operate the shelter.

Starting Oct. 1, the shelter’s resource program — which provides access to lunch, restrooms and laundry — will only be offered to individuals who are engaged in its supportive services. Those are individuals who meet with case managers, recovery support and the outreach team.

New Horizons will also cap the number of people for overnight stays to 108. Short-term funding is allowing for 30 additional overflow mattresses, but only for the winter months.

“This is a public health crisis,” said Chief Operating Officer Stephanie Savard. “There’s no doubt in my mind.”

Savard said her staff is struggling to keep up with the demand of a fast-growing homeless population in Manchester.

“We have had a significant rise of folks who need services, shelter services in particular,” she said. “As a result, our facility and our staffing capacity has really hit a maximum.”

This time last year, the shelter averaged 86 people per night. Savard said it’s now beyond its capacity of 108 beds and is sheltering more than 130 people every night.

She said the numbers are particularly high for this time of year, which is typically quiet. Concerns are growing for the busy winter months, as more people head indoors.

“We’re only one organization,” Savard said. “We are really needing additional support. We can do what we can do and do it well, but we need to take other providers, other agencies, to say, ‘What can we all do together in this community to address the issue?'”

Shelter officials said a number of factors have driven the increase in people seeking help, from substance abuse to referrals coming in from across New Hampshire. City and state officials have said they’re trying to work together to provide additional resources to lower the numbers.

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