Kaitlyn Coogan

Equinox Staff


Students living in off-campus apartments were surprised to find that the paying tenants are not the only ones living there.

“It kind of weirded me out. You don’t really expect to see someone in your basement or attic. I thought I lived in a safe city. I definitely watch my back a lot more now,” Sara Slovak said.

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Two students living in an apartment building on Marlborough Street went downstairs because their heat was going on and off only to find a man sleeping on an old mattress in their basement. When the Keene police show up, the man was nowhere to be found and the mattress was propped up against the wall. Police believe that there was a couple living in their basement and a man living in their attic according to both Slovak and Meghan Gowan.

“What bothered me was that our landlord did not tell us. My roommate didn’t even know until I told her. I feel like I didn’t realize how vulnerable and unsafe our apartment is. I feel like I have to be more aware of my surroundings,” Gowan said.

Gowan also feels that there is not much contact with their landlord the way that it should be. She believes that she would have felt more comfortable had her landlord contacted them.

The business manager for the apartment was there with the cops the day it happened and reassured the girls that there would be a lock put on the attic and on the outside door that leads to the basement because apparently that was an easy entrance into the building. So far there are still no locks according to Gowan.

After hearing about this event freshman Liz Bolduc said, “It makes me change my whole idea of living off campus. I love living on campus but I was looking forward to the independence of living off campus. But now that seems pretty disturbing that you can live somewhere and not know someone is living in your basement.”

According to Don Primrose, there is a homeless problem in Keene that needs to be taken care of and he has been working towards solving the situation for a couple years now.

“Dec. 1, 2009 I was having breakfast with Dale Pregent, he was the mayor at the time, and he said there wasn’t a homeless problem in Keene. That night there was a candlelight vigil on the Main Street in Keene for the homeless. The Working Families Win put a challenge out for people to do something. I say I made a mistake but I stood up and said I would open a shelter in Keene in two weeks,” Primrose said, founder of Hundred Night Shelter in Keene.

Primrose received phone calls the very next day from people in Concord saying it takes two- to two-and-half years to open a shelter because of permits. He said he was going to do it anyway.

“They were right; it took longer than I expected. It took us 15 days. I couldn’t do it in two weeks, it’s kind of funny but it’s true,” Primrose said.

That first night, on Jan. 5, Primrose opened the doors to one room, 16 beds, and 41 volunteers without having a permit. He went to the City of Keene with two pages of all the rules and violations he was going to be in the gray area with. The next day they set up a meeting with the city attorney, the city council, the police chief, the mayor, and all the city people.

“They asked me what I was going to do. I gave them a schedule of when I was going to comply and that it was going to take a year-and-half to comply. They asked what I was doing. I told them I was still opening. They said I couldn’t. I said it was okay, we’re still going to open it,” he said.

That first year they were open for 77 nights from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. and they filled 1,231 beds with 96 different people. According to Primrose there was definitely a need for this shelter.

Primrose did not have a background in social services or shelters, so that proceeding week he had a lot of investigation to do. He wrote protocols, intake forms, rules, regulations, application forms for volunteers, rules for volunteers, and much more.

Freshman Mary Ryan Connell, after being asked if she thought Keene had a homelessness problem, said, “I have seen a good deal of it.” She can recall a time when she and her friends went out into the woods and found a tent and furniture. After hearing about the Hundred Nights Shelter in Keene she said, “At least they have somewhere to go those coldest nights.”

Primrose believes that there is an increase in the homeless, mainly for children and the elderly. The youngest child to visit the shelter was only three-months-old.

That second year they opened on Dec. 21 with all permits in place with a second floor that was all brought up to code. It always opens on Dec. 21 and then for a hundred nights after during the coldest part of the year.

It is now a permanent 30-bed facility with a bathroom, a sink, and real beds. They provide some toiletries such as tooth brushes, tooth paste, and deodorant.

It is also one of the only shelters in New Hampshire that will let a person in while they are under the influence. The shelter provides two rooms; the “wet room” where people that are under the influence can sleep and the “dry room” where people who are clean or are with families sleep.

The shelter is also one of the only ones in New Hampshire to let registered sex offenders stay overnight. If they have a sex offender among them, they will separate that person from the families.

If police find people living on the streets of Keene, they will bring them to Hundred Nights. Some people do not like to live in shelters and Primrose believes that the situation with the apartment building may just be one of those circumstances.

Down stairs there is now a drop-in center that is open year around; Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., weekends 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. Although with all the progress they have made, they still have no funding from the government. The whole shelter runs on private donations. They are now 501c3 which means that people can donate and put it on their tax return.

“We are only open for a hundred nights but we can expand our needs. We don’t turn anyone away,” Primrose said.


Kaitlyn Coogan can be contacted at kcoogan@ksc.mailcruiser.com.


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