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Christian nonprofit looks to buy bed and breakfast for homeless men

  • Concord's Open Hands Resource Center is interested in purchasing Lovejoy Farm in Loudon and turning it into transitional housing for homeless men.<br/><br/>ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

    Concord's Open Hands Resource Center is interested in purchasing Lovejoy Farm in Loudon and turning it into transitional housing for homeless men.

    ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

  • Concord's Open Hands Resource Center is interested in purchasing Lovejoy Farm in Loudon and turning it into transitional housing for homeless men.<br/><br/>ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

    Concord's Open Hands Resource Center is interested in purchasing Lovejoy Farm in Loudon and turning it into transitional housing for homeless men.

    ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

  • Concord's Open Hands Resource Center is interested in purchasing Lovejoy Farm in Loudon and turning it into transitional housing for homeless men.<br/><br/>ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

    Concord's Open Hands Resource Center is interested in purchasing Lovejoy Farm in Loudon and turning it into transitional housing for homeless men.

    ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

  • Concord's Open Hands Resource Center is interested in purchasing Lovejoy Farm in Loudon and turning it into transitional housing for homeless men.<br/><br/>ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff
  • Concord's Open Hands Resource Center is interested in purchasing Lovejoy Farm in Loudon and turning it into transitional housing for homeless men.<br/><br/>ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff
  • Concord's Open Hands Resource Center is interested in purchasing Lovejoy Farm in Loudon and turning it into transitional housing for homeless men.<br/><br/>ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

A former bed and breakfast in Loudon could soon become a transitional housing facility for homeless men.

Open Hands Resource Center hopes to purchase an 8-acre property on Lovejoy Road and turn it into a functioning farm with room for up to a dozen homeless men.

The Christian nonprofit, which now runs a drop-in center for the homeless on North Main Street in Concord has signed a purchase-and-sales agreement to buy Lovejoy Farm for $235,000, said John Moretto, the organization’s director.

Moretto, who plans to sell his own home and move his family to Lovejoy Farm, said the organization began planning the transitional housing facility about a year ago.

“The real focus of the farm is to teach a work ethic – we’re looking to re-instill and re-teach the individual what it looks like to get up five days a week, eight hours a day and go to work,” Moretto said. “This is going to be their job. They basically would be working to pay for their keep until they can find gainful employment that they can learn for themselves.”

Open Hands is now looking for donations to help purchase the property. Moretto said they recently received $50,000 from an anonymous donor. The organization hopes to buy the farm this fall and host its first residents by winter.

First, the center’s board must receive approval from the Loudon Zoning Board. Moretto met with zoning board members last week and will formally apply for a zoning exception this month. The town’s zoning ordinance allows exceptions for boarding houses, he said.

Zoning board members and some neighbors were supportive of the project, according to a draft of the meeting minutes.

The farm building has been unoccupied for a few years, said real estate agent Helen Swasey. Since 2007, the property has been owned by Loudon N.H. Properties LLC, according to Loudon town records. A representative of the owners did not return a message left through Swasey yesterday.

Swasey said the property owners are in favor of Moretto’s vision for the farm.

“Most importantly because (John Moretto) and his family will live onsite so it will be totally managed and maintained by a family,” she said. “So they’ll start small. And these are people who have just had a run of bad luck that need to get back on their feet.”

Lovejoy Farm, at 268 Lovejoy Road, includes a large house with several separate units, Moretto said. It is on a residential street, surrounded by newer homes.

Though he’s heard of some opposition from neighbors, Moretto maintains that the farm won’t have a negative impact on the neighborhood.

“I have my daughters and my granddaughter living there, so clearly we’re not going to have anybody that we would consider a danger to them,” he said.

Life at the farm will be regimented. No drugs or alcohol will be permitted, Moretto said, and the men must comply with random drug tests. To live on the farm, men must seek permanent employment and work toward moving into their own homes.

That lifestyle isn’t for everyone, Moretto acknowledged, because men must be “serious about moving from homelessness to something more productive.”

Moretto said residents would wake up before 7 a.m. for breakfast and required prayer or devotional time. They would then work on the farm for the day or go to a different job. The farm and its livestock will provide food for the residents. Evenings will include personal or spiritual growth activities, such as Bible study groups. Residents could also receive transportation to faith-based group sessions to recover from drug or alcohol addictions. Each day will include devotional time, Moretto said, “just to try to hear from God.”

A focus on God and the Bible drew Moretto to look for a property and open a shelter.

“My faith says that I should be more worried about the people around me and the people that need help than myself,” he said. “And essentially this is my family putting that into practice. This is a step of faith.”

Moretto now lives in Warner with his wife, two daughters ages 22 and 16, and a 1-year-old granddaughter. He’ll still work as a self-employed mason to support his family, but they’ll live on the farm owned by Open Hands and provide full-time support and supervision for the residents.

The transitional housing project is called P.U.S.H., which stands for Progressive Unified Structured Housing. Moretto said the program is based on a model used elsewhere, such as a men’s shelter in Skowhegan, Maine.

Open Hands will continue to operate a drop-in center in downtown Concord, Moretto said, noting that many homeless and low-income residents who visit the center wouldn’t qualify to live on the farm in Loudon.

Moretto hopes the farm will become a “stepping stone” for homeless men to find their own place to live, and “a place where they can coordinate that effort as opposed to being in a tent.”

(Laura McCrystal can be reached at 369-3312 or
lmccrystal@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @lmccrystal.)

Lets see, when the Friendly Kitchen was at it's old location, the neighbors were upset because of bad behavior by the homeless that were using it. They complained, yet many on this forum were saying they should shut up, because the Friendly Kitchen was providing a great service, which they are. Same with this home, the neighbors fear they will be exposed to bad behavior. I am not sure if they would feel that way if this home did not have a religious base. And you cannot have it both ways folks. If you want to help the homeless, than support those that are actually trying. Do not take the NIMBY stance and then say you are all about helping the homeless. Seems to me we have quite a few hypocrites here. Help the poor, homeless, mentally impaired etc. Just don't do it in my back yard.

Obviously they weren’t talking to this neighbor. I didn't move to a rural area to have an agenda seeking man move potentially harmless and most likely proven substance abusers into a family community. Does this Moretto character have a mental health degree from an accredited Higher education program that can truly help these homeless men? Why does he think he's capable of choosing "the right" homeless men to live in our community. Does the town of Loudon have the services needed to take care of a homeless population? There are many questions to be asked. Who will be administering their medication? Will there be onsite security so they won’t wander to homes nearby? A study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration shows that roughly 39% report some form of mental health problems (20-25% meet criteria for serious mental illness) and 66% report either substance use and/or mental health problems. How can we trust 12 men potentially 66% of them having serious issues within walking distance of homes with children in a rural area. Will the town of Loudon have an increased police presence because of this halfway house? Who will be paying for and administering these random drug tests? How do we know that they are even doing this? I understand the need for a rehabilitation program for these men but not in a residential area where many hardworking families chose to live and expected to have a safe community outside of the hustle of a city.

You have to admit, it is a good way to move into a house, and not pay taxes on it.

The comments to this story show that the scourge of homelessness is a reliable measure of the divide between the haves and the have-nots: between those who HAVE compassion and humanity, and those who have NOT compassion and humanity.

You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty. Mahatma Gandhi

A needed response to homelessness. But what about folks who are from a faith tradition other than Christian, or a different Christian tradition? Will there be room for these men to come and receive help?

This makes no sense. There is a well established network of service providers/organizations serving people who are homeless in the Concord area. Housing people who have no transportation, no employment and no networks of support in a remote area is NOT a way to improve their future. This appears to be a well meaning person with an unrealistic and costly plan that is disconnected from the network of organizations and efforts that are needed for success.

Deuteronomy 15:11 For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.

This is exactly what is needed to get some of the homeless back on their feet and find gainful employment. I have been in contact with a number of men who want to improve their lives, but cannot find suitable housing or employment. Too often, these people are judged by their circumstance rather than from knowledge about what type of person they actually are. Additionally, property owners are also judgemental toward those who have been in trouble with the law and have made crucial decisions to abide by the laws instead of continually breaking them. In many cases, most teens have found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time and have, unfortunately, entangled themselves with the judicial system. This also puts some families in difficult situations in finding suitable housing. I am totally aware of one family that has found it quite difficult to find housing due to undue judgement. Therefore, in defense of those truly wanting to turn their lives around for the better, I implore you to give them a chance rather than judge without appropriate knowledge. They simply want a hand-UP, not a hand-OUT. Thank you in advance for your serious consideration.

There are bad apples in every realm of life....homeless, ethnicity, professionals, religiion, etc......but the good ones shouldn't have to pay the price. Well said drichard_nh301.

Open Hands is a fantastic organization with true, humble people at the helm. I'd rather have them as a neighbor than some "normal " neighbors I've experienced living next to. Good luck and God Bless to them.

Well said!

I can't believe the neighbors are for this.

All the neighbors i have spoken to are NOT ok with this. I have no idea who they are talking about in this article that is ok with this. We all will definitely be looking further into all of this. Also, this is only one mile from our elementary school. Not good!

I can safely say that, quite frankly I couldn't care any less what you or your neighbors think period. Like any of these people pose a threat to an elementary school. These people try to stay invisible and avoid being preyed on. These homeless are more of a threat than the registered sex offenders living there now? Last time I checked, there was no correlation between homelessness and being a sex offender. So get real, you are saying these people need help but not near you, how Christian.

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