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 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 dedicated to providing emergency shelter to anyone in need on the one hundred potentially coldest nights of the year—from December 21st through March 31st. We have become a resource to our neighbors who need a helping hand. Our guests are among the most vulnerable of the population. Some are people who are not eligible for shelter services provided by other organizations. Some are people who might be struggling with issues of addiction. Some are people trying to stay alive in tents during snowstorms and freezing temperatures. Some struggle with mental illness. Our shelter has evolved into a welcoming haven with clear rules and mutual respect between guests and volunteers. When an individual or family comes in the door, each is met by a trained staff member or volunteer who initiates a detailed intake interview and prepares the necessary documents in a non-threatening manner. All bags must be checked into the office,; they are retrievable in the morning. Other trained volunteers are awake and on duty throughout the night. During the past winter season an average of 17 people per night were able to sleep indoors on a clean bed, for a total of 1,686 “bed-nights”. Services were provided for a diverse population, including 2 families with young children, 7 homeless veterans, people with alcohol and drug abuse problems or mental illness, and those affected by an emergency, such as flooding or fire. Anyone is welcome—regardless of race, religion, gender or disabilities (mental or physical)—as long as they are not a danger to themselves or others. Policies and protocols are in place to address emergencies, unacceptable behaviors, or unusual occurrences. Guests are allowed into the dormitory-style shelter with bunks for the night at 7 pm and must leave at 7 am.
The Open Doors Resource Center opened in 2010 as a means to provide a hospitable space with some amenities during the day. It is open to everyone—not only the homeless—and in addition to a cup of coffee or water, people can access a phone or computer to check job postings or stay connected with family and friends. AIDS testing is regularly offered on site. There is a washing machine and dryer available for use on an advanced sign up basis. There is often food donated by The Community Kitchen to eat at lunchtime or take along. A “tailgate dinner” is served every Saturday night by several different church groups in a rotation, and an open mike with music, poetry and dance is held on Sunday evenings from 5pm to 8 pm. Our 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 work with various groups who provide services to homeless vets. We have had the services of a nutritionist who provides a presentation on healthy eating habits, and a retired schoolteacher has offered his help with preparation for the General Education Diploma. A local educator has just begun volunteering to start a free library shelf and a twice-weekly program to read to children. Planning is underway to hold a Tell Your Story workshop with photography, drawing, and writing.