Two Manchester groups that serve homeless may merge
By MARK HAYWARD
New Hampshire Union Leader
MANCHESTER — New Horizons for New Hampshire and Families in Transition — two prominent Manchester-based organizations that serve the homeless — are investigating the possibility of merging into a single organization, leaders for both groups said.
Both boards of directors have taken preliminary votes to establish merger subcommittees and delve into what steps would be necessary to build an over-arching organization to address homelessness in the city.
In interviews, some have said there is no timetable. But Dick Anagnost, a Manchester developer and chairman of Families in Transition, said the subcommittees could finish their work by September, and a final vote could be taken before the end of December.
Advocates portray the merger as a way to create efficiencies by combining two organizations and using the savings to help the homeless.
“Families in Transition does housing really well and food not so good. New Horizons does food really well and housing not so good,” Anagnost said in a telephone interview last week.
But the person who runs the day-to-day operations of New Horizons portrayed the move as a takeover by Families in Transition.
Kevin Kintner, the program director at New Horizons, questioned whether Families in Transition is eyeing the assets of New Horizons — two properties in a gentrifying area of the city and a balance sheet strengthened by the fundraising of outgoing Executive Director Charlie Sherman.
“I don’t think it’s about helping our clientele,” Kintner said. “They don’t know the people we serve.”
Both organizations started in Manchester, but have starkly different cultures.
Families in Transition
Families in Transition began as a homeless shelter for battered women and their children. It now owns about 235 apartment units in Manchester, Concord and Dover. Some are short-term emergency shelters, but most are longer-term, stable apartments where families and individuals can get on their feet, find a job and eventually achieve self-sufficiency.
Families in Transition also runs an outpatient treatment program for women addicts. Its biggest revenue source is government grants.
A nun, Sister Angie Whidden, used New Horizons to create an organization to feed the hungry and homeless. It operates a soup kitchen, food pantry, homeless shelter and Angie’s Place, a transitional service for women. It also houses Catholic Medical Center’s Healthcare for the Homeless program.
All New Horizon clients see a case manager, who tries to connect them to services. The more cooperative a client is, the more privileges he or she receives at the shelter, Kintner said.
New Horizons generates most of its revenues through donations and fundraising activities such as a hunger walk.
If a merger were to take place, the organizations would have to file paperwork with the New Hampshire Attorney General, according to Thomas Donovan, who runs the Attorney General’s Charitable Trusts Unit.
“In any merger, we check to see if the combined organization will continue to fulfill the purposes of the two separate organizations,” Donovan wrote in an email. A review would also look at restricted endowments and whether they would run contrary to the merged organization, he said.
No Probate Court review or public hearing would be required, he said.
New Horizons Chairman David Cassidy said Sherman’s pending retirement prompted the boards to examine a merger. He said both organizations are strong financially, which allows a merger to work. He said Families in Transition has more debt because it has more real estate.
He said New Horizons does an outstanding job in providing basic services to the homeless.
“What we’re looking at is not changing New Horizons, but what’s next for the population we’re serving,” he said. He said New Horizons would maintain its name and brand. He said he would support Maureen Beauregard, the president of Families in Transition, taking over control of the unified organization.
Looking for best results
Kintner, who said he did not apply for Sherman’s job, worries that New Horizons would change with a merger.
New Horizons accepts intoxicated people, but it has rules that it enforces without exception, he said. People get kicked out for violating the rules, and they complain about the shelter, he acknowledged. But they’re always allowed back in, and that consistency has built trust, Kintner said.
“The folks that are out there know they can come back to us,” Kintner said.
Beauregard said New Horizons has a talented staff that could elevate the operation to the next level. She has no set idea of how New Horizons would change if the organizations were to merge.
“You look at evidence-based practices. They are practices that get the best results. That’s what we do at Families in Transition. I don’t know if New Horizons does that or not,” Beauregard said.
She stressed that nothing has been decided.
“When you have two organizations that have like missions,” Beauregard said, “it makes sense to have a conversation.”