Presentation of Mary Academy to aid homeless families

HUDSON – Presentation of Mary of Academy is moving forward with plans to lease a building on its property to house homeless families.

The building will be leased to the Greater Nashua Interfaith Hospitality Network to use for displaced families.

Currently, the organization is working with churches to house families at various locations for a week at a time. During the day, the families go to a day center.

Under the new setup, which will start sometime next fall, the families will stay in the same location at night and during the day.

“It’s something we felt called to do,” said Sister Sue Bourret, provincial supervisor.

The school plans on leasing the building for less than $1,000 a month.

“It truly has been a gift to us,” said Linda Jeynes, an interfaith board member. “Coming at Christmas time, this is wonderful.”

Having one location will offer children and their families more stability, Jeynes said. “It definitely makes it easier all around for these people to get back on their feet.”

About 14 people are currently being helped by the interfaith organization. The building at PMA may be able to accommodate an additional six people, Jeynes said.

The school and interfaith organization were originally looking to have the lease become effective by this past summer, but postponed any decision to create time to discuss it with parents.

Some parents had expressed concern about the proposal. a meeting in June, with some parents asking how the school could ensure the safety of their children.

Several parents said they would take their children out of the school if the plan went forward.

Based on some parents’ concerns about increased traffic and safety, the religious order asked the network to refine its policies and procedures, Bourret said.

The building will have a separate driveway and parking area. Also, people with any history of drug or alcohol abuse or from abusive situations will not be allowed to stay.

There are shelters in the area that address those issues, Bourret said.

According to network members, the building would be used to house families with a source of income, not people who are chronically homeless. Those staying there would be assisted in finding housing.

The majority of the guests will be children, according to the order.

“We’ve been working hard at this for months,” Bourret said, adding later: “We weren’t ignoring what they (parents) were saying.”

Whenever possible, the order tried to address parent concerns, she said.

Parents were divided between those who supported the idea, those who were on the fence and those who were against it, Bourret said.

Mary Ainley was in the first camp. Months after her family moved to New Hampshire, her husband was laid off. It’s a very lonely, devastating and embarrassing feeling, she said.

Ainley, whose daughter is enrolled at PMA, said she initially had some questions about the proposal. Once she received more information, she felt comfortable with the idea.

“It’s a wonderful idea,” she said.

Leasing the building will help the sisters fulfill their mission of helping the poor, Bourret said.

“Our (founder), Marie Rivier, was very much for the poor,” she said. “To do anything for the disadvantaged in society. It’s part of our heritage for 200 years.”

The order will still continue to focus on education as its main mission even if enrollment drops a little, Bourret said.

“Again, I want to assure you that we have at heart the safety of everyone on our Hudson campus, and that homeless families that might cause a risk to anyone at PMA will not be housed on our property,” Bourret wrote in a letter home to parents.

Parents with questions can visit the order’s Web site, for more information. Click on Sisters of Presentation of Mary and GNIHN Collaborative Project and look under questions and answers and the policies and procedures of GNIHN.