Homeless facility prepares for winter months
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — There’s no doubt that those involved in Concord’s homeless community are breathing a sigh of relief this winter.
At 7 p.m. Monday, the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness’ own emergency winter shelter will open its doors for the first time. The shelter, located at 238 N. Main St., will be able to house 40 of Concord’s homeless population.
But moving into any space coming with some growing pains, those involved with the shelter have found; some more literal than you might think.
Jake King, who co-founded Thrive Outdoors and will be managing shelter operations for the second year in a row, said the shelter is much smaller than St. Peter’s Church, where people have come in from the cold the last three years.
Don’t get him wrong, it’s a nice space, and staff and volunteers will have everything they need. But there is no area for nightly check-ins, meaning there’s a chance a line could form in dangerous, chilly weather.
“They may have to be outside,” King said. “So we have to figure it out as quickly and safely as possible.”
Check-in is pretty quick, but it can be a process: King said guests have to fill out a form and turn in any items they don’t need for the night, like medication and any bedding the staff has deemed safe. Everything else is handed over and put in a locked space. Guests can bring a water bottle if it’s factory sealed or filled by staff.
Rather than check everyone’s bag, King said they trust people to hand over everything that’s not allowed.
“Our main concern is safety; secondary to that is to make sure everyone feels comfortable and welcome,” he said. “In the past, having to search through everyone’s bags doesn’t feel welcoming. . It’s just smoother and easier.”
Having a well-flowing process is more critical this year, too, because of the shelter’s size, King said.
In past years, about 8 or 9 volunteers have typically been needed to fill a shift, but this year they’ll only have space for 5 or 6, King said, plus at least one paid Thrive Outdoors manager.
Those positions are critical, he said, because Thrive employees are trained to handle guests who don’t follow shelter rules.
Rules, like how many people are allowed in the shelter at any time.
“The hardest part for me to teach is that we have to adhere to certain standards,” King said. “We have to have things in place. A lot of times, people fall back on their big hearts.
“When you put aside standards and rules and regulations because you want to be kind and loving, you put the whole facility at risk,” he continued. “You can still love each other and be a little more strict.”
King said he’s confident everything will go smoothly, but you never know what to expect.
For instance, your beds might be the wrong size.
Tom Fredenburg has been involved with the Coalition for several years, first as a board member, then as a landlord - he bought the building and land where the resource center is located and rented it to them before selling it back at cost.
Now he just volunteers, and on Saturday, he led a bed-building brigade, a little later than he would have liked.
“They sent us the wrong beds,” he said. “They’re a little too big, so we wouldn’t have been able to fit as many as we want to.”
You’d think bigger beds would mean more room to stretch out, but no, Fredenburg said. In addition to only being able to fit about 32 beds, he said they wouldn’t leave much breathing room.
“It’s not healthy to have people on top of each other,” he said.
The shelter will be open from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. every day from Monday on. For more information about the shelter and how to get involved call the Coalition’s resource center at 290-3375.
Information from: Concord Monitor, http://www.concordmonitor.com