MANCHESTER, NH – Wednesday, January 26, was an ordinary day, but as it concluded, rather than set my alarm for my usual 7 a.m., I set it for 1 a.m. Yes, I would have only a short nap! The alarm went off and I was up and ready to put on my outdoor gear to be at Families in Transition for 2 a.m. For the next 4-5 hours, I was going to walk the cold streets of Manchester and participate in the HUD Point-in-Time (PIT) count.
After a brief training, we were ready to hit the streets. Our task was simple: walk the grid we were assigned and take note of any person we came across who was experiencing homelessness. While we were working outside, the teams at the FIT shelter and 1269 Cafe/Hope for Recovery warming station were conducting their own counts of those who sought shelter for the evening. This data will be compiled by HUD and used to determine future funding needs for our community.
My count partner and I had a section of Ward 7 and Ward 4, a route of approximately 7 ½ miles. I was fortunate to have a partner who was experienced with the PIT count and is a Marine veteran who currently works at the VA Hospital in Manchester. While walking on a clear, cold night, I was able to learn more about various programs available to support veterans experiencing homelessness in our community. The conversation took the focus off the cold as temps quickly dipped to -1 degrees. As the sun came up, we had recorded a few folks and returned to the FIT office with data in hand. After a brief gathering with other volunteers, we all departed to start our day–another PIT count completed.
For me, this was a new experience and it was a great way to learn more about the Manchester Continuum of Care (MCoC) and how the non-profits, faith-based groups, veteran’s organizations and private organizations in our community are working together with a shared mission to reduce homelessness in Manchester.
Serving as Alderman At-Large has changed how I reflect on this and my previous volunteer activities. The lessons are much the same; however, I am now constantly wondering how we, as a city, can do better and how I can leverage my community resources to support the work that these organizations are doing.
On another level, the walk on a quiet winter evening reminded me to be thankful for what I have and served as a powerful reminder that we must continue to work together to help others. It is never lost on me and I am grateful that:
- I have adequate winter gear to be able to bundle up against the elements and choose to be out walking on a cold, clear morning. The key being choice over circumstance; and
- I was able to get into a warm car, drive to a warm home, have a hot breakfast, take a hot shower and put on a fresh set of clothes before starting a new day. All things we sometimes take for granted.
I wish we could snap our fingers and make these challenges go away overnight; however, that is not going to happen. We continue to make progress and I am appreciative that we have amazing teams working together to make a difference. There are many ways we, as individuals, can help and I do know that if you were to reach out to any organization on the MCoC list, they would happily work with you to find a way to get involved, whether it be as a volunteer or perhaps a donation. It may be an overused phrase; however, I do believe it takes a village and I am thankful that the MCoC continues to support and advocate for those in need.
About the Manchester Continuum of Care
The Manchester Continuum of Care (MCoC) is a collaborative of community partners and member organizations based in Manchester, New Hampshire, who work together on an ongoing monthly basis. The MCoC works to bridge providers across the city in a comprehensive system to ensure the most cohesive support network for those experiencing homelessness in the City. Each year, the group works together to determine funding needs and applies to HUD grants that are then allocated to the programs and organizations that are a part of the work to address housing and homelessness in the greater Manchester area. Learn more about the MCoC at www.manchester-coc.org