Editorial: Warmth and shelter amid the cold

  • It might not look like much now, but this construction zone will soon be a 40-bed emergency shelter for the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness. TIM GOODWIN / Insider staff

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Though Concord’s winter shelter for the homeless won’t open until Monday, it is the season to celebrate the dedication and persistence of the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness and all who devote time and money to their cause.

The first survival principle taught by Thrive Outdoors, the Manchester organization founded by former Army Ranger Jake King, is maintaining a positive frame of mind. A positive mind-set is the key to dealing with stress and anxiety and thinking clearly, according to King, whose group will run Concord’s winter shelter for the homeless this year. It wasn’t always easy to think positively about the fate of Concord’s homeless in winter. Some years, only last-minute efforts by Mayor Jim Bouley and others made a shelter possible. Those days are over.

We suspect, but admittedly don’t know, that several dozen Concord-area residents will spend the next few cold and snowy nights outdoors. Many will likely have a few of what Thrive Outdoors calls “The Big Five,” but not all. Shelter, probably, if only a tent. Fire or heat? Probably not. Water, yes. Food, thanks to the Herculean efforts of all those who fund and operate the Friendly Kitchen, yes again. When the winter shelter opens on Monday at St. Peter’s Church on North State Street, the homeless will be able to avail themselves of all five.

Site work has begun in preparation for the construction of a permanent, 40-bed, dormitory-style shelter behind the Homeless Resource Center on North Main Street. The resource center provides the homeless with a place to shower, do laundry, receive mail, and access to a caseworker and the internet.

By design the shelter the coalition is building will be spartan, so its residents will have an incentive to find permanent housing. Progress, albeit slow, is being made on that front as well through the coalition’s supportive housing program, which saves money that might otherwise be spent on jails, prisons and hospital emergency rooms.

“It has been estimated that an individual experiencing chronic homelessness can cost the community between $30,000 to $50,000 per year. It costs approximately $12,000 to $15,000 to provide an individual with housing and support through Housing First Concord,” according to the coalition.

The shelter efforts are being carried out without state funding, and for good reason. Accepting state funds, as the shelter effort did in the past, meant being listed as a resource on a statewide helpline. Roughly two-thirds of those who stayed in Concord’s shelters came from outside the Concord area. It would be nice if the capital city could afford to shelter anyone from anywhere when the cold winds blow, but the reality is that it can’t.

Concord’s winter shelter will continue to be funded locally by taxpayers and charitable and business contributions, as it has for the past two years.

This Christmas season, consider a donation to the shelter effort and the Friendly Kitchen. It would be a gift of food, warmth, light and companionship.