In January 2010 Founder Don Primrose opened Hundred Nights as an emergency cold weather shelter for the many homeless who were unable to secure a bed in the City of Keene/Southwestern Community Services shelters, either because they were already full, or in some cases because the person in need of shelter was ineligible for services. We opened after a flurry of activity to find a home, raise funds and find volunteers to renovate our facilities as much as possible. Hundred Nights closed that year on March 21st, earlier than hoped, because there was no properly installed sprinkler system. During that 77 night period, Hundred Nights, with the help of 51 volunteers, provided 1,231 bed nights to 96 different guests from Keene and the surrounding area.
Those volunteers and others spent countless hours on fundraising for a sprinkler and alarm system which needed to be installed before December 21, 2010 in order for Hundred Nights to open for its second season. On that night, a Homeless Memorial Candlelight Vigil was held, one of many throughout the USA, as well as a ribbon-cutting and opening ceremony for the Shelter. Fifteen minutes prior to the start of the vigil, Hundred Nights received word from the Keene Fire Chief that the inspection of the sprinkler and alarm system was complete, and that the shelter could open for the season.
Hundred Nights, Inc. is a community non-profit organization with two components: 1) provide a cold weather shelter which offers clean beds in a safe and warm space from 6:45 pm to 7 am from November to April, longer if families in need have nowhere to go, and 2) operate the Open Doors Resource Center which provides a welcoming space for people to gather for sustenance of body and spirit on a year-round basis.
Why do people need shelter here?
- the other shelters in the region are already at capacity
- the individual in need may have a criminal background that prevents them from being allowed in the other shelters
- 211 statewide crisis line, a police department or hospital has referred a person to Hundred Nights because they have no place to go
- eviction, frozen pipes, release from jail or rehab without a support plan
- an income from any source that doesn’t cover housing costs
- a struggle with substance misuse and/or mental health issues
Every night the shelter is open there is a shelter manager and 2-3 volunteers ready to greet people as they come inside. A one on one intake interview is conducted with forms filled in and copies made of ID’s or birth certificates if possible. Information is distributed about local services such as meals and showers. People are asked if they need assistance applying for Medicaid, Food Stamps, housing, safe-link phones, eye exams and glasses, or if they need referrals to other agencies providing services. If people respond positively to that question their names are given to the Resource Center case manager for assistance the next day. There are 32 lockers that are assigned to people if they would like to store some of their belongings. If a family with children is in need of shelter the Hundred Nights staff will make every attempt to find them open beds in a family shelter; in the event that all family shelters are full, we will provide the family with a more private space until a room in a family shelter opens up or they secure other housing. All the sheets, blankets, towels are washed every day.
Guests are allowed into the dormitory-style shelter, with bunk-beds, for the night at 6:45 pm and must leave at 7 am. If there are more than 26 people in need of shelter on a given night, a local Keene church has been available as an overflow site for up to 10 people per night. There are staff people who are awake overnight at both locations. We have been at capacity this year at Lamson St since November 13th, and have had an additional 6-8 people at overflow since December 30th.
The Open Doors Resource Center opened as a means to provide a hospitable space with some amenities during the day. It is open to any displaced person, not only those experiencing homelessness, and in addition to a beverage or snack, people can access a phone, fax or computer to check job postings or stay connected with family and friends. There is a washing machine and dryer available for use on an advanced sign up basis. There is always food donated by volunteers or The Community Kitchen to eat at breakfast and lunchtime. A “tailgate dinner” is served every Saturday and Sunday night by several different church and civic groups in a rotation. The Hundred Nights address is available for use as a mail-drop location for anyone who needs it. This affords our guests a physical address for listing on ID applications, employment applications, etc. We have created a fund to pay for ID’s and birth certificates for those in need, as it is not possible to get a job or vote without an ID. The Resource Center provides as much case management as possible with our small staff and volunteers, and are available to work on referrals, and application/appointment assistance any weekday. We work with various groups who provide services to homeless vets. Over the last few years we have developed afternoon programs in subjects ranging from anger management and resume building to Cribbage and Scrabble tournaments, to encourage people to broaden their horizons. For many, there is no place else to go.