Citizen of the Year Maureen Beauregard honored as 'an incredible asset'
By KEVIN LANDRIGAN New Hampshire Union Leader
Maureen Beauregard, president of Families in Transition, was honored as Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year at their annual dinner held at The Manchester Downtown Hotel on Thursday. (THOMAS ROY/UNION LEADER)
MANCHESTER — Maureen Beauregard, who has personified the fight against homelessness for a quarter century, said she never imagined becoming the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce’s Citizen of the Year.
The 56-year-old Epping native who’s a “long-time person in recovery” believes this honor will bring fresh attention to a problem that’s become even more complex and tragic because of an opioid epidemic and a mental health care crisis.
This president and co-founder of Families in Transition–New Horizons has steered her agency through a year of upheaval and expansion since it merged with the New Horizons shelter and has taken over transitional housing with the financial collapse of Serenity Place.
“I feel things are happening this way for a reason, and that these next three to five years are going to be transformational for our members,” Beauregard said.
With family, friends, business leaders and countless advocates cheering her on, Beauregard accepted this annual award during a sold-out dinner of 800 at the Manchester Downtown Hotel.
As the survivor of her own difficult childhood of abuse which placed her at age 5 in foster care, Beauregard said this motivated her to try and marshal more resources and volunteer commitment to save many more children who, by no fault of their own, are out on New Hampshire’s streets.
“We need to talk about who these people are; they don’t fall into just one category and so many of them have multiple issues that need to be addressed,” Beauregard said during an interview.
“I think there needs to be a mind shift at all levels when it comes to folks who are homeless. Anyone who works in the homeless arena, the way we used to do things is a thing of the past.”
Chrissy Simonds, a former homeless client, said Beauregard and the program she runs instilled in her a sense of purpose and a strong, positive outlook to always work hard to succeed.
“Maureen advocates for us every day. I didn’t learn any of those things from my parents. I learned all of those from FiT,” Simonds said.
Over her 27 years at the agency, Beauregard has helped turn FiT from a small agency with five transitional apartments to more than two dozen projects with 200 housing units that serve 600 people a year.
Tim Soucy, Manchester’s public health director, recalls Beauregard running the startup in a one-room office from a building next to the one that housed Soucy and some city departments.
“It’s just amazing how far she has taken FiT and she has such exciting and bold plans for the future,” said Soucy, who serves on one of the agency’s board of directors.
Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig called Beauregard an “incredible asset” who led the effort to keep Safe Station programs intact after Serenity Place collapsed last January.
“Maureen listens, she identifies the need of the community and she acts. She leads in a quiet but powerful way and she gets things done,” Craig said.
Beauregard said with 5,000 seeking services each year or eight times the level of current service, the unmet need is even greater than ever.
“The opioid epidemic really threw us back in time if you think about it,” Beauregard said. “Everyone in human services were just so over-taxed trying desperately to get a handle on the size and scope of what was out there.
“It felt like we were back in the early 1980s and those were such challenging times.”
She said the most crying need for the homeless is simply more access to a safe place to stay.
“I think we definitely don’t have enough housing and we don’t have enough specialized housing,” Beauregard said.
The nonprofit sector needs to operate more like a business, being innovative on the fly and willing to try different strategies until finding the ones that work, she said.
“I do think we have to be a business first if we are going to be around for our mission,” Beauregard said.
“We are not going to feel our way out of this. We have to know the real facts, the numbers of folks who are out there and what’s going to be needed to help them.
Auto dealer magnate Andy Crews, winner of this award in 2015, said Beauregard was a powerhouse on the chamber board.
“Leadership exists and can thrive in all corners whether it’s private, nonprofit, government, and this person shows incredible talent with collaboration, innovation, creativity — all those qualities someone must have if they are going to be successful,” Crews said. “Maureen is so deserving of this; she’s made all of her many admirers very proud tonight.”
Chamber President and CEO Michael Skelton said Beauregard is the ultimate New Hampshire success story.
“It truly is our honor to recognize a special person of boundless energy and generosity, a nonprofit leader who is a shining example, a rare leader who through her own special journey brings so much compassion and joy to people who have faced such challenges,” Skelton said.
And Manchester aldermanic board Chairman Dan O’Neil said Beauregard has accomplished so much because she is selfless.
“It’s never about Maureen. To me, that’s what makes her so special and so inspiring to people. She truly is out there in the community doing good work because it has to be done,” O’Neil said.
Meanwhile, the former, state social worker Beauregard understands in New Hampshire there isn’t ever going to be an unlimited pot of taxpayer money for any cause.
“There is no money. We really need to go to individuals and corporations and say, you know what? We really need to take the wheel together,” Beauregard said. “We really need to tap into that potential that is out there. I am not going to wait for the state and feds to say here’s some more money. Giving is all about relationships, and we have to build ours with the greater community.”
Beauregard has garnered numerous awards, including the 2016 Champion in Action Award, co-sponsored by the New Hampshire Union Leader and Citizens Bank.