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My Turn: Help for homeless residents? Here’s a start

The Monitor’s April 7 editorial, “Urgent need to deal with homelessness,” offered a thoughtful assessment of the current state of homelessness in Concord and asserted the need for affordable housing with supportive services in order to reduce homelessness in this community. The piece also suggested that Concord would be well-served in the short-term by providing additional supports for homeless people in the form of a daytime resource center.

The Concord community already hosts an important starting point for this expansion of services – the Concord Homeless Resource Center. Located at 6B S. State Street, the CHRC is a project of the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness and is in its fourth year of operation. In that time we have seen a 400 percent increase in the number of visits to our center, and we see an urgent need to expand our capacity in order to more fully meet the community’s need.

The CHRC is run by one full-time director and 15 volunteers and is open to the public Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The center offers one-on-one case management, connecting homeless people with the services offered by our many community partners and agencies. The program helps men and women in crisis to navigate the complex, confusing and at times overwhelming processes required to access the benefits and services that move people from homelessness toward housing security. In addition, our volunteers help our guests with computer skills and resume writing, and offer encouragement and a listening ear.

The CHRC has become a hub where local service providers can connect directly to people who can be otherwise difficult to reach. A representative from Concord Hospital comes once a month to sign people up for a primary health care provider, Medicaid and financial assistance. Local service programs send a staff person to our hospitality area once per week to do consultation and intake with prospective clients. Once-a-month haircuts are offered by a local hairstylist.

While our space is too small for laundry facilities and showers, we have established the program by which our guests can get free use of a local laundromat, as well as shower facilities at the YMCA. Another feature that is important to many is that they use the CHRC as the address for receiving mail. This simple asset enables our guests to receive essential documents, checks and other correspondence.

Is more needed? Yes, of course. With a larger facility and additional staff capacity, we could offer a full-service supervised day center such as your editorial suggests.

As the Concord Steering Committee to End Homelessness moves through the planning process, we are eager to offer the Concord Homeless Resource Center as an asset that could be enhanced to meet a growing need.

(Linda Newell is co-chairwoman of the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness.)

I took full advantage of the Resource Center while homeless this past winter, and was encouraged and provided for on each visit. Marcia and her wonderful staff of committed volunteers helped steer me in the right direction. The community could greatly benefit from an expanded center located next to the Friendly Kitchen, to include showers, laundry and a day center, as well as a central resource hub where other agencies may meet their clientele. A walk-in clinic could be added. The town made an excellent move in providing the Commercial St property, and now may be the time to centralize homeless resources in that same area. The result could provide a side benefit of re-directing homeless traffic out of the downtown area, away from potentially loitering in front of businesses or warming themselves on heated sidewalks, and into a plaza where all their needs may be met. Excellent job, all at CHRC!

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