More options for homeless in city

NASHUA – As the mercury drops, local organizations are gearing up to keep homeless people out of the elements.

New charitable groups and facilities that have sprung up since last winter, and months of planning for this time of the year, have advocates for the homeless believing they have the space to offer more people shelter so they don’t have to live outside or crowd into the apartments of friends or relatives.

An estimated 50 beds are now available during the winter in the city, including shelters that serve specific groups of individuals, such as families. Those services free more beds and space to serve a broader group of people in need.

New organizations include the transitional housing program for veterans on Amherst Street, run by Harbor Homes; the Greater Nashua Interfaith Hospitality Network, which opened a day center this month on Daniel Webster Highway; and the Southern New Hampshire Rescue Mission, which started operating last year from a building on Chestnut Street.

“We really want to see if we can keep people off the streets this year,” said Linda Jeynes, a board member of the hospitality network.

Opening by winter was a priority for the group, since hurdles got in the way last year, Jeynes said.

The network is using space at 10 hosting religious institutions in Greater Nashua to provide shelter for families. The network can assist 14 people at once, Jeynes said, and is set up to help parents and children younger than 18.

Eileen Brady, a social worker at the Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter, said the addition of the new organizations and facilities helps everyone.

The shelter’s policy is never to refuse a bed to anyone during the winter, even if that means people sleep on the floor, she said.

Apartments are more available now than in the recent past, she said, so that also should help prevent people from being forced outside.In the fall, the Greater Nashua Continuum of Care unveiled its “A Home for Everyone” plan, a 10-year effort to end homelessness in the region.

Bob Mack, the city’s welfare officer, said the better organizing effort for this year grew out of the plan. Meetings started in the spring to line up information about organizations that are available to help and other resources, he said.

Mack said the rising cost of heating fuel is sure to force some city residents to turn to emergency assistance from the Welfare Department to pay for heat.

If necessary, the city program will temporarily house people in local motels until shelter beds become available, as it has done in the past, Mack said.