Mom, baby reunited at FIT shelter; OutFITters stores help fund efforts
Maureen Beauregard, left, and Michele Talwani of Families in Transition give a our of the OutFITters Thrift Store in Manchester on Monday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)
Her husband had lost his roofing job, and the pair kept warm under “lots and lots of blankets,” Lami said Wednesday.
“Not all of us are out there because we have addictions,” the 30-year-old said.
For the past two weeks, Lami and her son, Brian, now three months old, have lived at the Family Place Resource Center and Shelter in Manchester.
The shelter, operated by Families in Transition (FIT), allowed Lami to be reunited with her son, who had been living with relatives. Lami will get help at the shelter finding a job and more permanent housing.
Last year, FIT provided housing to 616 people, including 311 kids, in Manchester, Concord and Dover.
“We get calls every day that people are living in their cars,” FIT President Maureen Beauregard said.
By one count, there were 1,317 people — including 321 kids — homeless in New Hampshire during one 24-hour period last January. Another government agency reported 3,268 New Hampshire students were identified as homeless, but that count was taken over the course of the entire school year, not just one day, and included people couch-surfing from home to home.
The organization’s budget for 2017 is nearly $10 million, including funding from state, federal and Manchester city funds.
FIT also operates two OutFITters stores that produce about $200,000 to support its efforts.
Most of the stores’ customers probably haven’t heard stories like Lami’s, but they appreciate that they can buy quality items at cut-rate prices.
At the Manchester OutFITters store, Abby Anderson pushed a stroller with her young son, Preston, who was decked out in an OshKosh B’gosh jacket his mom bought for $5 and a Gap T-shirt she snagged for a buck or two.
The Manchester mother shops for deals sometimes as often as five times a week at the store on the West Side.
“You never know what you’re going to find,” said Anderson, who said she can afford to shop elsewhere but prefers the better prices at OutFITters, 394 Second St., where the merchandise ranges from clothing to $1 hardcover books, $20 wooden dressers and knickknacks only a few might love.
Citizens Bank and the New Hampshire Union Leader named Families in Transition as a 2016 Champion in Action in the category of collective impact this year. The nonprofit will receive $35,000 in unrestricted funding, media coverage from the Union Leader and promotional and volunteer support.
FIT runs a more upscale OutFITters store in a former Victorian home on Concord’s South Main Street.
Michele Talwani, FIT vice president of marketing and economic development, said the store’s “proceeds stay hyper-local.”
At the stores, the top-selling items are women’s clothing, then furniture and housewares.
Mary O’Dee of Manchester picked out a Christmas-themed glass snowman for 50 cents.
“You can’t get better than that,” she said.
The store is staffed with volunteers and paid workers. Last year, 893 volunteers gave more than 15,000 hours helping at the two stores.
Rhonda Cairns of Londonderry volunteers at least a dozen hours a week.
“It makes me feel like I’m doing something to help other than sitting around bitter, complaining,” Cairns said.
She said she is surprised by the women’s clothing that’s donated — “the quality and name brands with tags still on ’em.”
Talwani said George’s Apparel in Manchester recently donated brand new suits with tags still attached. And a Berlin shoe store going out of business offered new, unsold stock. FIT sent a truck to pick up hundreds of pairs.
OutFITters is similar to 10 stores that Goodwill Industries of Northern New England operates in New Hampshire, including one in Manchester.
“The way we look at it is there’s room for everybody,” said Ken Christian, Goodwill’s senior director of communications.
Goodwill also works with FIT clients to help people prepare for and find jobs.