Feb 12, 2015 8:23 PM

NH1 News Investigates: Is NH Failing our Families?


BOSCAWEN - For two nights in January a family of seven slept in the only shelter they say they could find, their Dodge Durango.

"We were really worried that one of the family members was not going to make it through the night, especially with the baby being so small and it was freezing cold," said the mother, explaining what it felt like to be homeless for the first time. "That was the hardest part was realizing that there was absolutely nothing."

After numerous phone calls, they discovered New Hampshire's packed family shelters had no room, even for five children under the age of nine, among them a baby and a child with special need.

"If Jason and I were drug dependent, or if we were single, or if I were a domestic violence victim there would have been a place," said the mother through tears.

The family says the go-to resource in the state, 211, attempted to find immediate shelter for them, but couldn't because there simply wasn't enough space.

" I can say that they tried," said the mother of 211's efforts.

According to New Hampshire 211 Program Director Heather Aicholtz, finding shelter space for families has become increasingly difficult, at times forcing 211 to use a small fund to place parents with children in hotels.

"Sometimes there really isn't enough. When you don't have somewhere to place someone," said Aicholtz. "The family space does seem harder and harder to come by."

For more than 20 years, Andy Labrie has helped homeless families find shelter at Concord's Community Action Program. He said people often turn a blind eye to the limited resources available to homeless families in New Hampshire.

"I don't think that people want to know," said Labrie. "It's easier to put it in the back of your mind, then to deal with it. Everybody thinks it's the person who's drinking and drugging and on the street. Many times it's not that person at all."

The family NH1 spoke to said that is exactly their story. They found themselves homeless following a job loss that left them unable to pay rent, and eventually sleeping in their car.

Finally part of state law, requiring towns to take care of the most vulnerable, convinced officials in the town of Pittsfield to get the family a hotel room for two weeks.

"I just want to be able to give my children the safety and security of something more than two beds in a room," said the father of seven.

Labrie said helping families in this position will take work but is possible.

"I think we need to lobby Washington first of all for more Section 8 vouchers that are portable that folks can stay in their communities and find work there," said Labrie. "We need to find higher-paying jobs for folks. It's $19 or plus to support a two bedroom apartment in Concord right now, and if you're working at Wal-Mart you're not making $19 an hour."

"There needs to be more shelters for families," said the mother of seven.

In 2014 there were 259 homeless families reported in New Hampshire.


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