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A new overnight warming station opened Dec. 1 in Manchester. It could help fill a gap in emergency shelter services in the city.

1269Inside2.jpeg
Courtesy of Mary Chevalier
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People can gather at 1269 Cafe to stay warm this winter

Anybody interested in accessing the warming station can find it at 456 Union St. in Manchester. Doors begin to open at 8:00 pm, and the new warming station effort will run from 11:00 pm to 7:00 am every night until March 31.

Starting tonight, Hope for New Hampshire Recovery and the 1269 Cafe in Manchester will host an overnight space for people experiencing homelessness. There, visitors can get coffee and get warm as temperatures drop well below freezing.

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Organizers of the warming station hope it will fill a gap in overnight services for people experiencing homelessness in the city over the winter. The most recent data collected show about 1,700 people experience homelessness in Manchester.

Mary Chevalier, a co-founder of 1269 Cafe, says the warming station is working with the city’s only adult emergency shelter to ensure unhoused people are able to find a safe place to stay on cold winter nights if they must be turned away from the shelter.

“But starting today, turning away [from a shelter] will just mean: hang out for an hour or two, and then 1269 will be open so you can have a place to be at least,” she said.

Families in Transition operates the only adult emergency shelter in Manchester. Kyle Chumas, director of communications for Families in Transition, which has 138 beds, says the facility has been at or near capacity many of the nights over the last several months.

And, as NHPR’s Gabriela Lozada reported, some people utilizing their services say the facilities are not always in ideal condition.

Last winter, federal funding helped provide extra shelter for people experiencing homelessness over the winter, Chumas said. But he says that funding isn’t available this year, and with staffing challenges that Families in Transition is facing, the new warming station will play a critical role this winter.

“All of it centers around that fatality prevention measure for people on the coldest nights,” he said. “We’re just really grateful that Hope and 1269 have stepped in to fill that need.”

Life-threatening hypothermia can occur at even mild temperatures. And the effort to provide a warm place to be was driven by a desire to save lives, says Keith Howard, executive director of Hope for New Hampshire Recovery.

“With the temperatures dropping, we knew that there were going to be people out on the streets. And the cold can lead to the loss of ears and noses and fingers and toes. And also the loss of life,” he said.

1269 Cafe has operated an afternoon warming center for years, Chevalier says, but this is the first time they’ll be open overnight.

Warming station organizers say they’re relying on community donations and volunteers to run through the winter.

Anybody interested in accessing the warming station can find it at 456 Union St. in Manchester. Doors begin to open at 8:00 pm, and the new warming station effort will run from 11:00 pm to 7:00 am every night until March 31.

Doors open every hour to people coming in, and people can leave at any time.

“It's not going to be party central, but if you want to come into a safe space on a cold night, the doors are going to be open to you,” Chevalier said.