With the cold weather approaching, cities and nonprofits are making preparations to help Granite Staters without homes — particularly those who have been staying outside.
Dover’s city council has approved the seasonal “warming center” it operates with Somersworth and Rochester, and has expanded the center’s operations this year. But in Manchester and Nashua, city leaders and nonprofits do not expect to open additional shelter space for the winter, as they did last year.
The Strafford County warming center has in past years only been open on nights when the temperature drops below freezing, or nights when it is raining and below 40 degrees.
But the Dover City Council voted this week to open the center every night from Nov. 29 until April 1. If the city councils in Somersworth and Rochester sign off, the warming center will effectively become a seasonal shelter.
Manchester’s shelter is not moving toward operating a seasonal overflow shelter, like the extra beds funded by the city and operated by Families in Transition in the former police station last year.
The Families in Transition shelter in downtown Manchester can accommodate 138 people, said the group’s communications director Kyle Chumas. The city and other organizations are looking at ways to find more space.
In Nashua, there is not much room in shelters and few openings in transitional housing.
“We don’t have a ton of capacity,” said Michael Apfelberg, president of the United Way of Greater Nashua, and a member of the “continuum of care” collaborative that helps coordinate nonprofits’ activity around homelessness in the area.
While Nashua’s population of unsheltered homeless people is much smaller than Manchester’s without major encampments in the city, Apfelberg said he worried the current housing market is pushing more people from their homes.
“Affordable rental housing is just not there,” he said.
The Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter is working to expand its emergency shelter, but work on that project is not expected to be completed until the spring.
And while the shelter can accommodate some additional people on the coldest nights, the continuing spread of COVID-19 presents an additional danger.