State grant lays foundation for new homeless shelter in Manchester

MANCHESTER — A state housing agency has awarded $750,000 to a locally-based nonprofit to convert a downtown building into an emergency shelter for homeless families.

The New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority is providing the funds to Families in Transition – New Horizons, which operates the city’s current emergency shelter on Liberty Street, north of downtown.

The new shelter, which is to replace the Liberty Street facility, will be at 167 Lake Ave., in the former Manchester Community Resource Center, which relocated down the street at the newly renovated Odd Fellows Hall.

The Liberty Street shelter is in a converted house, and has only seven bedrooms and it has shared bathrooms, while the new facility will have 12 bedrooms with their own bathrooms, along with kitchen and two living rooms.

Maureen Beauregard, FIT’s president, said the new shelter will be cleaner and safer, in particular by having private bathrooms. “In a situation like this, we really try to reduce the risk to children,” she said. “The truth is kids do get sexually assaulted in shelters.”

Only families with children are eligible to stay at the shelter.

Converting the former MCRC building will cost an estimated $2.1 million. With the state funding along with the proceeds from the sale of $500,000 in state tax credits, Beauregard said she was hopeful that construction could begin in the summer.

The former MCRC building, where low-income people could get job training, already has a commercial kitchen and meeting rooms that Beauregard said will help FIT achieve its mission of helping families get back on their feet. “We’ve been able to move people on to other forms of successful housing, rather than just saying, ‘Leave,’” she said. “That just causes people to come back in a couple months.”

The facility is set to go before the city Zoning Board, which must approve its use as shelter, on Jan. 16.

Beauregard said she believed the facility, near the intersection of Pine Street and Lake Avenue, would improve the area. “It is a rougher neighborhood,” she said. “If you look at our other existing facilities, we definitely add to neighborhoods. … We take responsibility for our surroundings.”

Families in Transition – New Horizons directly controls half of the units at the Liberty Street shelter, and it receives funding through the city Welfare Department to oversee the facility.

The 50-50 split between FIT units and city units will continue at the new building, Beauregard said. Welfare Commissioner Paul Martineau did not return a call for comment on Monday.

The nonprofit is purchasing the MCRC building and the adjacent parking lot from the city for $430,000, a favorable price the city extended the group.
The city is not providing funding for the renovation of the new shelter. In addition to the state funding, FIT is getting from donations from private foundations.

Besides the state housing grant, the New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority has issued FIT $500,000 in tax credits to support construction of the shelter. The group has sold $100,000 in credits and is eager to sell the remaining $400,000. Businesses can purchase the credits to use against business profits and enterprise taxes, and the insurance premium [email protected]

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