WAY STATION SERVES as HQ for 24-HOUR POINT in TIME COUNT of HOMELESS POPULATION in CONWAY AREA
North Conway, NH – Next Wednesday, January 29, the entire state of New Hampshire will conduct a 24-hour survey of people who live in conditions that the federal government considers to define homelessness. For the first time ever, Carroll County is coordinating comprehensive participation in this survey, spear-headed by Tri-County Cap. The Way Station will open for a special shift that day, 8am – 8pm, and serving as a base of operations in the Conway area for volunteers helping to conduct the survey and also for homeless residents participating in the survey.
Homeless residents include people living outdoors, sleeping in cars or other vehicles, couch-surfing and doubling or tripling up in friend’s homes, or living in motels and hotels with financial assistance. The Point in Time survey is anonymous and brief. People aren’t required to provide names or identifying information; the questions are non-invasive. Participation is voluntary. For those who participate in the Point in Time (PIT) survey in our area, the Way Station is offering gift cards to local coffee shops and Tri County Cap is providing ‘Pit Kits’ with handwarmers and other self-care items.
Volunteers are needed for this survey. If interested, please contact us at contact us at 603.452.7113 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit the Way Station’s website at waystationnh.org.
Prior to 2020, Carroll County has not engaged in a comprehensive attempt to participate in this annual Point in Time survey. Individual towns, such as Conway, NH represented by BJ Parker, have collected available data. This year, Tri County Cap is coordinating the Point in Time survey across Coos and Carroll counties. Homeless outreach agent Lisa Snowman is overseeing this initiative in Carroll County, and partnering with the Way Station in Conway as a hub for volunteers and homeless survey participants.
Throughout the county, town staff members are participating, schools are invited to get involved, and several medical, social service and nonprofit organizations are also engaging in the survey. Clergy and other care providers are also participating or volunteering. The Way Station is serving as headquarters for this survey in the Conway area. White Horse Addiction Center is serving as a hub in Ossipee. This Point in Time survey requires the cooperative effort of many nonprofits and agencies, plus the legwork of many volunteers, to meet people in different locations and include them in the survey.
According to the news source Axios, a group of American mayors is now reporting that homelessness has overtaken the opioid epidemic as the top issue plaguing cities. It is also a significant issue in rural areas. Homelessness, which was declining through 2010, has begun to rise again over the past four years. Its increase is directly tied to the affordable housing crisis.
Meanwhile, one way that Carroll County may address this issue in our own region is through active participation in this statewide survey. We will then report more accurate numbers of homeless and at-risk residents in the Mt Washington Valley. For instance, since the Way Station opened last June, our volunteers have worked with over 90 guests who qualify as homeless. Yet we are only serving a portion of the total population in our area that falls into this category. And this is one of the only ‘counts’ of local homeless and at-risk residents that has been available, since the Way Station is the first organization focused specifically on serving the homeless and housing-insecure population in Mt Washington Valley.
During the recent Northern Carroll County Care Providers meeting, it was stated that New Hampshire reported only 45 homeless children statewide last year. Yet more than two dozen children meet the federal guidelines for homelessness within the SAU9 school district. Clearly, the numbers of homeless residents in our area are grossly under-reported.
Although the Point in Time survey’s 24-hour ‘snapshot’ of the homeless population won’t capture every resident who might be characterized as homeless, this first-ever comprehensive participation at a county-wide level can improve the quality of information available we provide to the state. More accurate data will change the funding and resources that may then be allocated to our region by the state and federal government. It will also grow public awareness of the scale of the problem.
In the North Conway area, the Way Station at 15 Grove St is helping organize volunteers.
The Way Station will be open for an extra shift on Wed, Jan 29 from 8am to 8pm for all potential guests. Rides are available to transport guests to the Way Station. Guests may — like usual — take showers, do laundry, check mail, retrieve food from the emergency food pantry, choose clean warm clothing, acquire extra sleeping bags and warm blankets, obtain toiletries and other self-care essentials. Guests may also meet with our volunteers for emotional support and referrals to other wraparound agencies that address issues such as healthcare, financial assistance, education, employment, and other programs that stabilize people and interrupt the cycle of poverty and homelessness.
The Way Station will also serve as a base of operations for volunteers that day. Volunteers are going out to other sites around the North Conway/Conway area to meet residents willing to be counted in the Point in Time survey. Volunteers will carry kits with toiletries, hand warmers and other essentials to be shared with homeless and at-risk residents. The Way Station is also offering Dunkin Donuts cards to people who participate in the survey.
Founded in 2019, the The Way Station serves as a day resource center for local homeless, housing-insecure and at-risk residents. Although we are not a shelter, we provide many of the basic services outlined above such as offering showers, laundry, postal address, emotional support and referrals.The Way Station has been open for over six months. Since our doors opened in June 2019, we have helped over 90 people. The Way Station is open for limited hours each week on Mondays and Thursdays, but answers our phone every day and arranges emergency access when needed.
The ages of the Way Station’s guests range from families with infants and toddlers to young adults and seniors. Some people are simply on the wrong side of the poverty cycle, knocked down by getting sick and losing a job; then all the facets of stability fall apart, like dominoes falling when the first problem occurs. Some are now living sober and working, recovering from addiction and associated issues. A few have been diagnosed with mental health conditions that challenge their ability to live, work, and succeed in traditional settings. Other guests have temporary shelter, but need our additional services such as laundry and use of the post office box for mail delivery, so they can obtain drivers licenses, car registrations, and other documentation that allows them to apply for jobs and classes and other constructive resources.
The Way Station continues to give out tents, sleeping bags, and camping gear. Some people camp outdoors or sleep in their cars through the winter, although this becomes life-threatening during freezing nights and snowstorms. Others seek affordable long-term rental housing, which is almost nonexistent in the Mt Washington Valley. In the short-term, people may stay with friends if they can find an empty bed, couch or floor to use. Others live in local hotels and motels when they have sufficient funds or qualify for supportive programs.
Additionally, Bennett & Perkins will perform folk music at a Saturdary, Jan 25 soup and song dine-to-donate fundraiser organized by MWV Supports Recovery and hosted at Nativity Lutheran Church, the campus on which the Way Station operates. Way Station will benefit from a portion of the proceeds of the concert. Dinner is served at 6pm, music starts at 7pm.