WAY STATION 2.0 - COVID Version of How We Help!
Is the Way Station still open, despite new COVID spikes? YES!
In fact, we've been open every week, throughout the pandemic. We never closed; we simply changed how we operate.
Since the pandemic, the number of people we serve tripled, and so did their needs! We contact about 52 households every week, and prepare packages for about 22-25 of them. Due to COVID, we operate a curbside model of services for most client needs.
Our guests are way too vulnerable to withdraw the essential support the Way Station regularly provides. Although we are not a shelter, and do not provide housing, our day resource center strives to build trusting relationships and empower individuals to find their own path forward toward stable, independent, safe, and sustainable lives.
Significantly, the Way Station's phone number — 603.452.7113 — is answered 7 days/week. Due to new safety guidelines, reduced volunteer base, and the volume of clients we now support, we're operating mostly as a curbside service on Thursdays 5-6pm, or by appointment if volunteers are available to open the facility at other times. We arrange on-site showers by appointment, and also provide space for in-person consultations, generally during our open shift times.
As winter comes, we will adjust the model to permit brief indoor meetings, consultations, and "go bag" pickups. These will require appointment-based versus drop-in visits, in order to protect clients and volunteers, and to maintain the level of services required.
Meanwhile, our all-volunteer team answers the phone or returns calls — daily — to develop safety plans with people who need urgent help. We also conduct weekly wellness calls and check-ins — by phone — with all clients whom we're serving: more than four dozen households supporting over 100 people, including seniors, adults, and parents with minor children.
During phone calls, and again when we meet people in-person during Thursday shifts, we hold more in-depth conversations. In part, we're finding out what people want in this week's "go bags." Additionally, we're learning what's happening in someone's life, what they need right now, what they hope to achieve going forward. Based on relationships that involve trust, we seek to advocate in ways that connect our clients with resources and organizations that will help move them toward those aims.
In part, these connections happen real-time. On Thursdays, when we're open to guests, a member of Tri-County Cap's homeless intervention & prevention team meets with clients. A recovery coach from local sobriety & recovery programs such as Mt Washington Valley Supports Recovery or White Horse Addiction Center is also on-hand to provide support and make plans with clients who ask for such assistance.
During the weekly curbside shift on Thursdays, 5-6pm, volunteers provide "go bags" prepared for clients, customized to their needs, using our available inventory of supplies. These "go bags" include:
• laundry cards and detergent
• shelf-stable food (energy bars, meals in a can)
• camping gear: tents & cold weather sleeping bags
• rugged winter apparel such as parkas, coats, ski pants, boots, ski gloves/mittens & hats (clean donated items)
• phones and monthly phone cards
• client's mail (delivered to our PO Box and held for distribution to clients)
• and more.
Although these items were donated in the past, and we continue to receive in-kind donations of many itemss, we must also now acquire and maintain a much larger inventory of such items due to the increased needs since COVID occurred, so we're spending funds to provide these supplies.
Once upon a time, before COVID, we operated with up to 32 volunteers, and hosted clients inside. They had access, three times a week, to a small revolving food pantry, dining area and microwave, wahser and dryer to do laundry, hot shower with new toiletries and clean towels, computer and printer with internet connection, and the leisure to sit and chat with volunteers. in those times, we used to see about 3-8 people in one shift, over a period of 3 hours.
Now, each week, we actively track about 52 households, representing over 100 individuals, including 24 children and youth, and at least 20 seniors. We conduct wellness checks by phone with many of those households every week.
Indeed, we've served the homeless & housing insecure residents of Mt Washington Valley — many families who didn't have a shelter in which to quarantine — every week through the pandemic! By the way, while there are no homeless shelters in this area, we do have people who don't have a permanent address, who work jobs and attend school in this valley, while living in cars, camping, couch-surfing, or simply sleeping outside.
In a given week, of the people we serve directly:
• 9 households are camping outside in winter conditions
• 10 households live each night in cars
• Many more are couch-surfing, sleeping on the floor in someone else's kitchen or bathroom, grabbing a shower at a friend's house, and moving locations every other night to stay warm and dry as winter begins and snow falls.
Many people are housed — doubled and tripled up to afford the prices — in local hotels that have become defacto apartment complexes, without kitchens to cook meals, but at least providing heat, light, shelter, and running water!