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Staff photo by Don Himsel

Betty Beaverstock cleans off her car in front of Market Basket in Hudson as the snow begins to accumulate Tuesday, February 29, 2012.
Thursday, March 1, 2012

Late winter storm has homeless outreach workers scrambling

NASHUA – With the falling of the first flakes of a delayed winter’s first significant storm, Kathy Paquette scrambled to find emergency shelter beds, just in case.

The city’s three homeless shelters are full, but an emergency cot here or there can be found, even if it means a drive to Manchester, said Paquette, a homeless outreach advocate with Southern New Hampshire Services.

“I will be getting a lot of calls today because of the storm, absolutely,” she said Wednesday.

Paquette works in the trenches. If someone, particularly a family, is homeless in the Nashua area, Paquette knows about it. She also knows where shelter beds are available, and works with shelters out of the area, such as New Horizons in Manchester.

Likewise, Eileen Brady knows a winter storm can add stress to men, women and families who don’t have a permanent address.

Many homeless people have friends they can stay with, at least to hunker down and wait out a storm, said Brady, social worker with the Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter, which runs a shelter on Kinsley Street.

But that’s not the case for everyone, she said.

“If somebody shows up at the door, they can come in,” Brady said.

Most at risk of not finding shelter are “people who just hit town” and don’t know anyone, she said.

In those cases, social workers try to get the people in touch with the city welfare office as soon as possible, in hopes they can get help finding short-term rooms in area motels.

Paquette said Wednesday that she heard from about 20 people or families worried about the coming storm and finding shelter. She knows where to turn in an emergency: the shelters on Ash, Maple and Kinsley streets, or the Southern N.H. Rescue Mission, a Christian organization that provides shelter for men.

But Paquette worries about the longer term, if a late-arriving winter drags on through March and into April.

Emergency winter shelters in Concord are scheduled to close March 15, earlier than usual for the season, Paquette said. There are only so many beds available in southern New Hampshire, and shelters closing in Concord could create a ripple effect, causing a shortage here, she said.

Patrick Meighan can be reached at 594-6518 or pmeighan@nashuatelegraph.com.