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 a homeless person 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. With the New Hampshire unemployment rate at 3%, 9% of New Hampshire households live at or below the poverty line.
The cost of rental housing in our community remains alarmingly high. The median rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Merrimack County is $1,112 per month, and a vacancy rate of 1.70% according to the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority.
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. Across the state, the number of homeless children continues to rise. In 2015 nearly half the persons experiencing homelessness in New Hampshire were families with children (760 people in 277 households). This is about an 8% increase from 2014-2015. In 2015, the Friends Emergency Housing program served 38 families: 115 people (65 children and 50 adults).
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.