Cold Snap Has N.H. Homeless Shelters Operating Above Capacity

Nov 13, 2019

Credit Todd Bookman / NHPR

Tuesday night’s cold snap filled many of New Hampshire’s homeless shelters, and some had to turn people away.

Hundred Nights in Keene had just opened the doors of their cold weather shelter on Monday.

“We were hoping we didn’t have to turn anybody away. And fortunately, we did not last night,” said Mindy Cambiar, executive director of Hundred Nights. 

She said her organization was able to move seven people into stable, permanent housing just last week, opening up beds. 

“Had that not happened, we would be really in trouble right now,” she said. 

In Portsmouth, Crossroads House shelter housed 118 people Tuesday night. The shelter’s maximum capacity is 96. 

Executive Director Martha Stone says Crossroads House operates above capacity 63 percent of the year. During winter months, that number goes up to 94 percent. 

Currently, she says, they have 41 women, 24 men, and 34 families waiting for placements. 

“It’s way beyond our ability to get everybody who needs shelter in our facility,” Stone said.

New Horizons emergency shelter in Manchester reached unsafe occupancy levels in August and as a result set a strict capacity of 138. That’s 88 beds for men, and 50 for women. Last night, they were forced to turn five men away. 

New Horizons’ Chief Operating Officer, Stephanie Savard, says people who can’t find shelter should call 211 to be connected to available services. “211 has access to contacting other shelters across the state to see if anybody has a bed available,” she said. “And if they do have a bed available, they have some transportation funds to help somebody get to that facility.”

Granite United Way operates New Hampshire’s 211 line. They said they typically get about 750 calls a month from people seeking shelter, but only got one call on Tuesday.

Patrick Tufts, President of Granite United Way, said, “In the short term, I think folks who are seeking shelter might have some alternatives. They might be able to double up somewhere, they might have found somewhere that they could be for a night or two. What we’ve found in the past is that when we get into prolonged cold snaps is when we really start to see the increase.”