Dec 17, 2014 11:24 PM

Lack of space forces Merrimack County's only family shelter to turn parents, children away

CONCORD- From the outside it looks like any another home in Concord.

On the inside, we met 3-year-old Mikey. For the past five months, he along with his two older brothers and parents have called Merrimack County's only family shelter home. They consider themselves fortunate.

On the afternoon NH1 visited, the shelter had already turned away five families due to lack of space.

"It's incredibly hard," said Friends Program Director Arolyn King. "You have parents who are calling that are upset that can't find housing for their family. They're unsure of what the night's going to bring."

Mikey's parents called the shelter every day for two weeks and finally secured a room.

"It's hard," said shelter resident Angelique Simons."I feel bad for other families, too because like you said some are sleeping in their cars with infants and you know they can't get in."

"Most people are one check away, one paycheck away from being homeless," said King. "Things happen. Companies downsize or there's loss of life in a family or somebody just hits a rough spot, and things happen. It's not always about choices."

King said one or both parents in five of the eight families at the shelter have jobs. Simons works in retail and her husband in manufacturing. He racks up as much overtime as possible to save so his family can move out of the shelter soon.

The couple said even though they're working hard, their paychecks make paying rent and supporting their three boys a challenge.

"Concord is kind of hard to get your foot in the door," said Simons. "Rent is really high."

During our visit, former shelter resident, Wendy Santiago, unexpectedly stopped by to donate a turkey to the Friends Program.

Six years ago, Santiago was at her lowest point, living at this very shelter with her infant son. Since then, times have gotten better.

"Coming back here to give back to those who have given so much to me just allows me to give that little piece of hope to somebody where at one point where I didn't feel like I had that hope," said Santiago.

Many studies have shown leaving homeless people out on the streets ends up costing taxpayers more. The increased cost stems from the homeless often go to emergency rooms for medical care and encounters with law enforcement.


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