Concord winter shelter to open December 1

  • Rev. Michael Leuchtenberger, center, and his son, Daniel, bring in bedding to the former office space of the First Congregational Church that will be converted into bedrooms for the homeless on Friday morning, December 18, 2020. Leuchtenberger, pastor of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Concord and the outgoing chair of the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness, brought items from the existing winter shelter over to the new facility. GEOFF FORESTER

  • Rev. Michael Leuchtenberger, center, and his son, Daniel, bring in bunk beds to the former office space of the First Congregational Church on Friday morning, December 18, 2020. Leuchtenberger, pastor of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Concord and the outgoing chair of the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness, brought items from the existing winter shelter over to the new facility. GEOFF FORESTER

  • Robert and Lois Potter wait for the Emergency Winter Shelter to open on Tuesday night, January 14, 2020 on North Main Street in Concord, GEOFF FORESTER

  • Concord's Emergency Winter Shelter, built by the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness, is set to open on Dec. 17 with 40 beds. The new shelter is located at 238 N. Main St. Courtesy of Ridgelight Studio

Monitor staff
Published: 11/29/2021 10:19:00 AM

The emergency winter shelter operated by the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness will open on Dec. 1 this year.

Executive Director Ellen Groh said the Coalition is opening the shelter at the beginning of December this year, as it did in 2020, to take advantage of extra planning time.

The Concord shelter will have 40 beds available for adults to stay out of cold weather every night from 6:30 p.m. to 7 a.m. through March. Located at the First Congregational Church of Concord at 177 North Main Street, the shelter is “low-barrier,” meaning no one will be turned away for being intoxicated.

Capacity at the old shelter location at 238 N. Main Street was initially reduced last year to allow for social distancing, but additional beds were added after the Coalition purchased the church last winter.

Volunteers will check people in and out every night and morning. Last year, there were no volunteers at the shelter in an effort to reduce COVID exposure. Anyone wishing to volunteer for check-in and check-out shifts between 6-8 p.m. and 6-8 a.m. can email Connor Spern at connor@concordhomeless.org for more information.

People staying at the shelter will be split into eight different classrooms in the building to try to prevent COVID spread. All staff are vaccinated, Groh said.

In winter 2020, people at shelters who needed to isolate or quarantine because of COVID-19 exposure could do so at a state-managed site at the Dube Building in Laconia staffed by the National Guard.

That site closed over the summer when the state’s COVID-19 strategy changed to a more local and regional approach, Department of Health and Human Services Public Information Officer Kathy Remillard wrote in an email to the Monitor.

The department has released $8 million in coronavirus relief funds to support local organizations in finding isolation or quarantine space for people experiencing homelessness, and federal funding is still available for shelter modifications or operating costs related to COVID.

“Some shelters have been able to make modifications that allow for isolation and quarantine on site, some have partnered with area hotels to provide sheltering options for people who need them, while others are collaborating with community partners for solutions,” Remillard wrote in an email.

“We continue to work with homeless services providers statewide, and many are working closely with their local Regional Public Health Networks as they continue to respond to COVID-19 in their communities and meet the needs of the populations they serve,” she wrote.

Director of Housing Action NH Elissa Margolin said the increased funding to help shelters address isolation needs is good news, but the bad news is with customers returning to hotels, rooms are scarce and the tight rental market makes it hard to secure other vacant spaces.

“You have increased positives and an increased infection rate but you don’t have the resources you had before. You have more money in the system but you don’t have the same kind of vacant opportunities,” Margolin said.

Shelters like the emergency one in Concord might have the funding to rent rooms – but finding hotels willing to fill their rooms with potential COVID patients instead of holiday travelers has so far been impossible.

Groh said hotels have told her they won’t provide rooms to people who test positive. “I’m assuming they’re thinking that people don’t really want to stay in a hotel that’s the isolation hotel,” she said.

Finding local quarantine solutions for a congregate living setting can be challenging, Margolin said, depending on the availability in a given part of the state.

“It’s just not that easy because a shelter is often a place of last resort,” she said.


Cassidy Jensen bio photo

Cassidy Jensen has been a reporter at the Monitor, covering the city of Concord and criminal justice, since July 2021. Previously, she was a fellow at the Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia University, where she earned a master's degree. Her work has been published in Documented, THE CITY, Washington City Paper and Street Sense Media. When she's not at City Council meetings, you can find her hiking in the White Mountains.



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