Leadership program seeks to empower N.H.’s homeless

The aim is to equip participants with leadership skills to help them take on influential roles in issues of importance to them

A Leadership New Hampshire-style program is being launched in November that will specifically be aimed at individuals who are homeless or who have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives.

Applicants are currently being sought for the program, called Granite Leaders, which is being organized by the New Hampshire Coalition to End Homelessness and funded by the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority. The program has already signed up six participants but has room for 15 in total. The only requirement is that applicants have experienced homelessness at some point in their life.

The aim of the program is to equip participants with leadership skills that will help increase their capacity to take on influential roles in issues that are important to their lives.

“This is something that we have been working toward, to really empower people who have experienced homelessness to find their voice, to be better advocates for themselves and the homeless population,” said Michele Talwani, director of economic development and marketing at Families in Transition, a Manchester and Concord-based nonprofit that houses the Coalition to End Homelessness.

According to the coalition’s 2012 State of Homelessness in New Hampshire report, seven of New Hampshire’s 10 counties saw an increase in homelessness from 2010 to 2012, and 45 percent of the state’s homeless population were families with children. It also found that the “doubled-up” population – which include people who are living temporarily with relatives or friends due to economic factors – increased by 37 percent over the same period.

The curriculum will include six sessions, including a day on the legislative process (which will include a State House tour and a meeting with lawmakers) and a session with members of the media on communicating with professionalism and diplomacy.

“This is a unique program to New Hampshire, and we’re modeling it after other sorts of leadership programs, like Leadership New Hampshire,” said Talwani.

The goal, she said, is “to really connect people who have experienced homelessness to leaders throughout the state to learn more about advocacy, how the state works, to meet with political leaders, to truly understand the intricacies of New Hampshire, so they could advocate on behalf of that population.”

On top of the advocacy piece, the program will also help participants meet with others who have experienced similar hardships and open new doors of opportunity, she said.

Deadline to apply is Oct. 9. Participants can apply online at http://www.nhceh.org/GraniteLeaders. For more information on sponsorships, which are also being sought, visit nhceh.org/GraniteLeaders/Sponsor.

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