You can lend helping hand

A few months ago, I had an interesting realization. My wife and I were pondering what life might look like when we retire. Of course, this is wishful thinking, since I’m a good decade away from that, but nevertheless sometimes it’s an interesting thought. We started looking at different locations – most of them much warmer and closer to the ocean than Nashua. One of our criteria for any place we live will be how can we volunteer, get involved, and give back. So, with that thought in mind, I started doing some research on the local nonprofit scene in a few different locations. What I found, and what sparked my “aha” moment was just how difficult this search was and just how opaque the nonprofit sector seems to be in many communities. That got me to thinking about Greater Nashua.

We have, by any objective measure, a very large and robust social services nonprofit sector in our community. As a person who goes to a lot of community meetings, whether it be for the Integrated Delivery Network, the Continuum of Care, the Mayors Opioid Task Force, the Prevention Coalition, or other, it’s easy for somebody like me to have a good sense of what the resources are. However, the average person generally has no idea, and so this month I thought it might be useful to just point out a couple of the key resources for connecting people to services in Greater Nashua.

First and foremost, I want to mention 211. I am continually astounded at how many people have never even heard of 211. This program, which is run by Granite United Way in Manchester, and supported by all four United Way’s in the State, is our primary referral resource. It is the free and confidential telephone number which you can call for any type of service. At risk of becoming homeless? Call 211. Struggling with drug addiction? Call 211. Looking for a supportive adult day program? Call 211? Need fuel assistance? Call 211. Looking for low cost tax prep help? Call 211? At its core, 211 New Hampshire (www.211nh.org) is a big database where every social services provider puts in their information about who they are and what services they offer. Professional, trained operators are on the phone, live, to assist with resources and referrals. As they say, “operators are standing by.” I should also mention that 211 has recently expanded its operations to be a key player in the statewide opioid response known as the hub and spoke model.

On a more local level, two big areas are homelessness and substance use disorder. For the fight against homelessness, it is important to keep in mind as a resource the Greater Nashua Continuum of Care (www.nashua-coc.org). The “CoC” is a collaboration of 20 or more community partners which are working together to reduce homelessness in our community. This includes organizations like the Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter, Marguerite’s Place, AnneMarie House, Greater Nashua Mental Health, Harbor Homes, United Way, the City of Nashua, and others. One important resource offered by the CoC is a hotline to call if one is homeless and needs help. The number for that can be found on their website, but more importantly, if you call 211 they will refer you to that number for help, and all the local shelters are connected. I always recommend to people to call 211, because the resources they provide will go beyond the immediate need, which might be shelter, to include other resources such as medical care, fuel assistance, food supports, etc.

In the area of substance abuse, we are very lucky to have the Safe Stations program here in Nashua. Through this program, any person who is ready to seek treatment can go to any Nashua fire station, day or night, and will end up getting connected to an appropriate treatment model. More often than not that will include Harbor Homes and /or Revive Recovery and be facilitated by American Medical Response. It’s a great program and an easy way to access these services. Beyond Safe Stations, and just like with homelessness, 211 is also a great first step to take to find out what resources are available.

With the remaining space I have, I wanted to mention just a few more programs and services people might not be aware of to get connected. One of them is for becoming a volunteer. United Way has partnered with The Telegraph to offer www.VolunteerGreaterNashua.org as a resource to give nonprofits the chance to post volunteer opportunities and people from the community a way to see all of the great ways in which they can get involved. We at United Way are deeply grateful to the Telegraph for supporting this great initiative. Another resource people might not be aware of is the new syringe services program (aka needle exchange) called SSANA which is a collaboration spearheaded by our public health department along with the Southern NH HIV/AIDS Task Force. This program is working to reduce the harm done by re-use of needles and is also starting to get people connected to addiction recovery supports. Again, not to sound too repetitive, but 211 is a good way to get referred to this program.

Any time you start out trying to talk about resources available, invariably something will get missed, and in the space of a short column, I apologize for all the omissions. Nevertheless, I hope that I’ve been able to provide you some ideas about how you, personally, can help people connect to resources. Who knows… you might be able to make a huge difference in a person’s life with this information, and at the end of the day, isn’t that what it really means to LIVE UNITED?

Mike Apfelberg is president of United Way of Greater Nashua.