Hundred Nights in the City of Keene, New Hampshire is currently one of the handful of options for the homeless population in Keene and Cheshire County. Named for the coldest one hundred nights of the year, the shelter operates from Nov. 15 to Apr. 15 and have kept the homeless out of the cold weather.
However, during inclement weather throughout the other seasons, there is the possibility that there is not enough shelters for the homeless. During nights with strong winds and heavy rain, finding a shelter with enough room is a challenge and more options should be available, according to a KSC professor. Besides Keene, the closest public year round homeless shelters are in Bellows Falls, New Hampshire, Brattleboro, Vermont, and Gardner, Massachusetts, according to the Homeless Shelter Directory.
According to New Hampshire Employment Security, 17 percent of Keene is under the poverty line, which is higher than the national average reported by the United States Census bureau for 2017, of 13.91 percent. Reasons that attribute to the current rate include mental health, economic instability and the ongoing opioid crisis, among other situations.
During Hurricane Irene in 2011, the “tent city” that had formed years before, around Keene was one of the only options the homeless population had, besides walking over 15 miles to Vermont, according to a KSC professor. The homeless have congregated in the area after the city banned the homeless from sleeping on benches and other areas.
Keene made efforts to increase low-income housing, and a possible opportunity could be the construction of a year-round homeless shelter. The initiative for a shelter would bring about progress and the potential of decreasing the tent city; yet other homeless populations could migrate to Keene.
A year-round public homeless shelter would require volunteers, supplies and public support. City council could start planning a shelter, yet counseling, rehabilitation, and employment services could be sought out elsewhere. Examples include local facilities including the Dartmouth Hitchcock health center, Monadnock Family Services and the Salvation Army, among others. When an individual goes to a shelter, volunteers could ask what services they are in need of, and staff from local facilities could be called in the next day, according to a KSC Professor.
Keene has a food shelter, and is similar to the one that was opened in early January at Keene State College, known as the Hungry Owl. The pantry serves students, and has a social media presence, predominately on Twitter. According to Susan Whittemore in a Tweet from January 10, “We have a home for the Hungry Owl, Keene State’s food pantry for students! Very exciting! Thanks to Kent Drake-Deese and the SNAKS and Pre-Med student clubs for making this happen!” Currently, there has been no confirmed location of the Hungry Owl on Twitter.
Examples from other successful homeless shelters may help Keene find a starting point and seek a solution for the homeless population. The Huffington Post praised Hawaii for their homeless shelter model; as well as other countries such as Sweden and Finland finding employment and low cost housing for their homeless populations.
Keene may take small steps towards solving homelessness, but every step is a step towards progress. Different seasons may present different challenges, yet the homeless should be protected during every season, and not just the wintertime.
Victoria Bergstrom can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org