The need for shelter for homeless families is greater than ever and the Friends Emergency Housing Program is the only family shelter in Concord and in Merrimack County. Did you know that the average age of someone homeless is 9 years old? Finding affordable housing for the low-income families we serve is extremely difficult. In fact, not only is the affordable housing shortage impacting low-income single-parent families, but all families in the New Hampshire workforce.
The cost of rental housing in our community remains alarmingly high. The median rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Merrimack County is $1,064 per month according to the NHHFA. As the only family shelter in Merrimack County, we are especially aware of the growing number of homeless children. The majority of our shelter residents are homeless children; typically two-thirds are pre-school age. Across the state, the number of homeless children continues to rise. The NH Department of Education reported 648 families lived in shelters in the year 2012 and the number of children included in those families equated to 847. This figure does not count pre-schoolers! In 2014, the Friends Emergency Housing program served 36 families: 112 people (65 children and 47 adults), a little over 9% of the homeless children in the state. Our shelter is essentially always full and it is rare that a vacancy is not filled the same day it occurs.
The importance of stable housing and economic security in a child’s life cannot be overstated. Homelessness influences every facet of a child’s life and its effects can be swift, severe and critical should interventions not occur. The trauma of homelessness can break families apart. Equally important, homeless adults need to be supported in their role as parents while making long-lasting positive strides to enhance family stability. The goal of our shelter program is to assist in expediting the family’s move into permanent housing, but also understand the responsibility of tending to family functioning.