Friends Emergency Housing seeks to help every family served find and keep stable and safe housing of their own. In the short term, we provide a safe place for families experiencing homelessness, giving them a secure environment while they find housing. For longer-term stability, staff work with residents to develop Individual Case Plans (ICPs), which identify each family's unique barriers and the events that led to their homelessness.
Working with a Case Manager, clients create action plans that address the underlying issues facing them. Many clients lack the knowledge essential to accessing the resources that will assist them in their efforts to obtain and maintain housing for their families. The plan helps clients gain the skills and knowledge needed to break down the barriers that prevented them from maintaining housing long-term.
Each family sets goals for budgeting, employment, life skills, physical and mental health, and education to complement the search for stable housing. These goals, and the steps the family needs to take to complete them are used to ensure proper Case Plan advancement. Success is evaluated on an individual basis with each family with the ultimate goal is always for our clients to be with us on a temporary basis while they find the stability, support, and skills necessary to maintain permanent and safe housing.
The need for shelter for homeless families is greater than ever and the Friends Emergency Housing Program offers the only permanent year-round family shelter in Merrimack County. More than 40% of those that are currently unhoused in New Hampshire are families with children? The cost of rental housing in our community remains alarmingly high. The median rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Merrimack County is over $1,600 per month, a 20% increase over the last five years. With a vacancy rate of 1.4 %, so low it is hard to even measure, it is easy to see how families have difficulty finding stable, affordable housing.
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 and build the supports necessary for long term success.
"Life turned around for me the day a staff member said “Homeless is a situation you are in, it is NOT who you are." That was two years ago and I’m so grateful the program was there for me and my kids. Even, now that we’re in our own home and I’m working as a full-time medical assistant I still call FEH when I need advice!" - Ashleigh, age 24
Picture this: You're a newly-single mom of two little boys, with no family or friends nearby. Unfortunately for you and your little family, bills don’t stop for personal reasons, and you’ve now been living in a car for over a week. You’ve showered at the local Y, scraped change to get your kids a meal, and you hope they don’t understand—but they do. It was fun for the first night, but now their excitement to camp has evaporated, and tensions are climbing. Why can’t I sleep in a bed? Why can’t we go to school? When are we going home? Finally, the phone call comes: “we’ve found a shelter with a space for you and your kids, but you have to come now.”
You’re now in a small room meeting with your new case manager, signing pages and pages of paperwork—for nearly two hours. Your back is to the door and the anxiety is making you feel claustrophobic, but you can hear your kids playing on the ramp outside, a sound you haven’t heard in days. You hope they understand—and they do. You take a deep breath. It’s not quite “home”, but it will get us there. We will get there. We can do this.
Sadly, this is not a unique situation. The Friends Program has been housing families in Concord since 1988, often sheltering 8 families at once. The program houses 125-150 individuals each year, and provides ongoing formal and informal supports to families who have moved into long-term housing to help them maintain stable housing for their families. As with any building that sees that amount of traffic, major repairs are needed, especially with the added damage of a flooded basement in April of 2020.
The Home Stretch campaign is a three-part shelter expansion and renovation that aims to do two things:
• Increase the number of families that can be housed in the emergency shelter each year
Create trauma-informed spaces that are aimed to ease, comfort, and decrease the emotional stress of transitioning into emergency shelter
• The Friends Emergency Housing family shelter is not a long-term housing solution, but the closer to “home” that a temporary room can feel, the easier it is for families, especially children, to settle in and begin the process of rebuilding their lives.
Families accounted for nearly forty percent of all people experiencing homelessness in New Hampshire in 2021, and the Friends Program is one of few permanent programs offering shelter year round to families in the greater Concord area. The construction of a ninth bedroom will connect an additional 15-25 individuals with emergency housing each year, and as the financial impacts of COVID-19 weigh on the wallets of already-struggling families, the Friends Emergency Housing Program is preparing to respond to an increased number of families experiencing homelessness. Learn more about The Home Stretch and how you can support our most vulnerable families.