The Lebanon Seasonal Shelter is Underway!
The city of Lebanon, NH has taken a significant step towards addressing the issue of homelessness. With a notable rise in housing insecurity and a strained budget, city officials knew they had to produce a more sustainable solution to the housing insecurity crisis. In response, the city purchased a vacant building at 160 Mechanic Street where they will house a seasonal shelter, managed, and staffed by the Upper Valley Haven.
According to the City Manager, Shaun Mulholland, the absence of a shelter in Lebanon not only poses a public safety concern but also presents a financial burden on taxpayers. In just two years, the budget for housing assistance has surged by $145,000. In August, Lebanon’s Human Services Director, Lynne Goodwin, had to request an extra $70,000 in funding from the City Council as she had depleted her annual housing assistance budget of approximately $105,000 halfway through the fiscal year, signaling a pressing need for a change. The closest shelters to Lebanon are located in White River Junction, VT (the Upper Valley Haven), and Sullivan County in Claremont, NH. The new seasonal shelter will offer safety and refuge to people experiencing homelessness from the harsh New England winters. Though, a temporary solution, Lebanon recognizes the urgency of providing warmth and security for people who find themselves without a home during the winter months.
The city is currently in the process of finalizing the budget for the project. However, the officials estimate it will cost approximately $200,000 with construction costs potentially reaching as high as $150,000. As part of the renovation, the facility plans to include two showers, laundry facilities equipped with a washer and dryer, and a compact kitchen suitable for heating food. The Upper Valley Haven plans to staff the shelter with two employees per shift, a Seasonal Shelter Supervisor, an intake coordinator, and volunteers who will assist in meal preparation and engage socially with the clients, providing important human connection to those staying in the shelter.
Michael Redmond, Executive Director of the Haven shared, “The Haven is pleased to be asked by the City of Lebanon to operate this shelter. We have worked closely with the Lebanon Human Services department for many years. We know that shelters save lives, and the Haven has expertise in how to successfully provide this service. The biggest challenge will be finding the staff needed for this temporary period to work overnights, but we will give it our best shot.” The City and the Haven aspire to have the shelter operational by December 15, although this timeline will depend on several factors, including the completion of construction and the Haven’s ability to hire the necessary staff.
The city plans to run the shelter for five seasons before the building is torn down to create a roundabout at the intersection of Mechanic Street and Slayton Hill in 2029. In the meantime, the Upper Valley Haven hopes to turn the property on 608 N. Main Street in WRJ into a permanent emergency shelter, and the city officials will assess the need for a permanent shelter in Lebanon as well. This seasonal shelter will serve as a beacon of hope, providing security to those who need it the most during the coldest months of the year. With the support of the community, the Haven, and Lebanon City officials, it will save the lives of the most vulnerable residents in the Upper Valley.