My Friend's Place began operating a shelter in 1989.  Since that time MFP has managed grants and contracts to provide emergency housing, transitional housing, and case management services for homeless people.  Grants and contracts have been received from the State of New Hampshire Bureau of Homeless and Housing Services, Community Development Block Grants from Rochester, NH and Dover, NH.,  The US Department of Housing and Urban Development and the United Way of the Greater Seacoast.  My Friend's Place was instrumental in establishing the Homeless Center for Strafford County, a seasonal shelter based in Rochester, NH.  HCSC has been in operation over 10 years. My Friend's Place also manages a 4 unit transitional housing program that is funded in part from the US Department of Housing & Urban Development.  MFP has also raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to support the needs of homeless people who stay at the shelter. During our 20 years of program experience we have assisted thousands of homeless individuals and families to obtain permanent housing.  We  provide a well maintained homelike environment and a challenging structured program that not only addresses their housing needs, but also those issues that have caused them to become homeless in the first place.  Our case management program develops an individual plan with a homeless client and then works to support them as they move toward permanent housing.  

What My Friend's Place Does to Ensure Success

Our Experience Helping the Homeless

How does My Friends Place screen the People we Serve​

Who does My Friends Place Serve.

My Friend's Place

A successful stay at My Friend’s Place will include development of a mandatory case management plan, seeking employment if unemployed, assisting in household management (chores) preparing their own meals and doing laundry and cleaning their room.  Individuals who are identified as an alcohol or substance abuser must participate in a mandatory program which could include daily AA meetings, NA meetings, or counseling through the Licensed Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor available through the homeless health care van from Families First. The case management plan will also include actively seeking housing after resources are procured – these could include developing a personal or family budget, obtaining employment, temporary assistance to needy families, or social security disability.  MFP staff are aware of the needs of local landlords and work with clients to make sure applications are completed accurately with supporting documentation, a security deposit is procured, landlord references are available, credit checks are reviewed, and if needed MFP case managers will attending hearings to assist clients who may have a negative tenant history with public housing. MFP staff members’ deliver a consistent program and interact frequently with residents.  They will regularly review the progress one is making toward their goal to obtain permanent housing and shelter resident’s are required to be accountable of their progress.
Our case management program requires a weekly meeting to review the progress an individual or family is making toward their goals.  The meeting is also a time when housing search, work search, and other aspects of an individual’s program can be reviewed.  We require people to document their daily work search and housing searches.For those having a difficult time obtaining employment, the case review is a time to discuss options such as working with NH employment security, discussing job application process how to properly complete an application, preparing resume, making secondary contacts, etc.  We encourage residents to complete public housing applications and during the case review we make sure the application is correct, we assist with getting copies of birth certificates and social security cards, we review the landlord reference process to assure that good references are available.  We also will attend hearings at public housing in the event this is necessary. Individuals seeking market rent are referred to our network of housing provider.  We refer individuals to agencies that can assist with security deposits and first month’s rent.  We will also obtain lists of household items and furniture needed and assist with obtaining these.  Our program will also improve data collection efforts to assure accuracy in managing our efforts to reach these goals.

Our primary focus is to provide short term shelter while we assist clients with developing a plan of action to obtain permanent housing, and to identify and present a solution to solve those problems that resulted in their becoming homeless.  Funding for this program will provide for operations cost and essential services which include 24 hour staff coverage, case management, repairs and maintenance, and utilities such as water, heat, and electricity. After a basic assessment is completed on all residents which determine the scope of their individual service plan or case management plan.  Most residents are encouraged to apply for services they may be eligible for such as food stamps, temporary assistance for needy families, and public housing.  If able to work individuals are required to make a minimum of 5 work related contacts per day and provide documentation to MFP staff.  We also maintain contact with the local day labor company and use this as a source for men and women to get their foot in the door for full time work. Individuals who have a difficult time gaining employment may be referred to vocational rehabilitation, the veteran’s administration, or the Department of Employment Security. Individuals in need of health or dental services are referred to the homeless health van, and to Wentworth Douglas hospital dental clinic.  Anyone seeking mental health services are referred to the local mental health center (Community Partners).
 We are seeing more clients entering My Friends Place without employment and applying for Social Security Disability, or Supplemental Security Income.  In most cases this application is in its early stages, or they have been denied once and are seeking appeal.  We house individuals lacking basic employment skills and/or the desire to seek employment.  We have had individuals who utilized many existing resources but could still not obtain employment.  We have had shelter residents tell us that they are being discriminated by age, sex, and personal appearance.   When employment is found we are seeing wages at barely a living wage. Local Housing authorities are backed up with waiting lists in the months for Dover, NH and years in Rochester.  Given this information, and the fact that our transitional housing program only has 4 units, we are not surprised that a family may be stuck in the shelter for 3 – 6 months. Finally, the availability of low rent rooming houses is also keeping the residents here at MFP longer that we would like. The gaps we see include a lack of affordable housing units such as rooming houses or single room occupancy units, a limit on the availability of public housing units and section 8 vouchers.  We also see limited employment opportunities for semi skilled workers, and lack of employment opportunities with a living wage. 

Issues in Helping 

How does Mt\y Friends Place use funds we receive ​

 The staff of My Friend’s Place includes the Executive Director, Susan M. Ford.  Susan has a Bachelors in Science degree in Human Service Administration from Granite State College, she also has been certified as a Global Career Development Facilitator as well as a Professional Resume Writer.  Susan has experienced homelessness herself as a single parent of two, living at My Friend's Pace in the mid 1990's.  Susan came to us with 5 years experience successfully running the Homeless Center for Strafford County in Rochester, NH, and prior to that had 15 years  experience in human services at Strafford County Community Action Partnership. 1 case manager with bachelor’s level training and 7 years experience handle the day to day case management responsibilities.  Our part time evening and overnight staff includes individuals with associate level training, and direct experience working with homeless people and in the field of substance abuse treatment. Our overnight staff has worked with us for over 5 years, and our part time evening staff has over 8 years experience with us.   Prior to hire an applicant is interviewed and references checked.  Upon hire a police background check is obtained.    A new hire will then participate in a structured training program that requires 16 hours under the direct tutelage of a senior staff member, and a minimum 8-hour shift being mentored by an experienced staff person.  Staff support is available 24 hours per day via telephone.

We are currently involved with Seacoast/Strafford County local shelters, United Way, and Community Action Programs from Rockingham and Strafford Counties.  We are currently using a system for coordinated entry that has a broad goal to prevent and divert individuals to the most appropriate resources prior to entering into a shelter.  The CE will also reduce the current practice of homeless people and local community welfare departments making multiple contacts before a bed can be found.  The Strafford County CAP has agreed to take the lead role in our demonstration that CE can work in our local area and clients will be better served. A major partner in our effort to provide the best supports for clients is the local welfare departments.  We require clients to obtain a referral from their local welfare department within the first 3 days they stay with us.  Many of our clients have made the first step to My Friend’s Place through their welfare department anyway.  Welfare departments generally have been very supportive of our resident – especially as we all have the same goal for residents to obtain their own housing.  A welfare department can provide medications and transportation assistance in addition to first month’s rent or a security deposit.  MFP has had a long term relationship with the Rochester Salvation Army since they assisted us with the development of the Homeless Center for Strafford County.  This seasonal shelter was first housed at the Salvation Army.  We are an authorized representative for the Salvation Army and as such have authority to dispense funds for disadvantaged people staying at the shelter.  Typically we can authorize vouchers for clothing, shoes and boots, food and medication. Though we can assist a potentially homeless family with developing a payment plan with Public Service Company to prevent utility termination.​

My Friend’s Place has a long history as a participant in the Balance of State Continuum of Care, and the Local Service Delivery Area network.   We have held leadership positions in both the Balance of State and local continuum.   We have managed the local component of the point in time count and our LSDA network developed; the Homeless Center for Strafford County a seasonal shelter, a Transitional Housing Program for Homeless Families, and a Permanent Supportive Housing Program. We are now actively involved with the coordinated entry system that was implemented in 2013

 Bed availability is the primary screening factor to enter My Friend’s Place.  Individuals who are required to register as a sex offender are not welcome. Individuals under the influence of non prescribed drugs and or alcohol are considered not safe to other individuals and families staying at the shelter.  They are not welcome.  An individual desiring to abstain from use is welcome.  An individual in early stages of drug or alcohol detoxification is welcome provided a medical screening can be accomplished.  An individual who is actively being stalked would not be taken in without conversation with local police officials to determine the extent of danger to the potential resident, MFP staff, and other shelter residents.  We have accepted individuals with domestic violence issues based on a screening interview to determine safety for all.  Past residents who exhibited violent, abusive, or other type of unacceptable anti social behavior would be reviewed prior to entry back to My Friend’s Place.

How My Friends Place Serves​

My Friend’s Place will shelter single men, woman, and families who do not have a fixed regular or adequate residence, or who otherwise meet the HUD definition of homeless. While our target area is defined as Strafford County in the past 12 months we served 70% from Strafford County with the balance from other NH counties, or other locations.  Our priority is sheltering NH homeless.  The point in time count in Strafford County continues to identify unsheltered individuals, and families who are either street homeless or “doubled up”.  Many of those sheltered are referred from Coordinated Entry. Coordinated Entry is a requirement of HUD for any funded program in the state. Coordinated Entry's main goal is a two prong approach. 1. Make obtaining shelter for clients that are truly homeless easier as well as send the client to the most appropriate shelter. And 2. Making sure that clients are truly homeless and in need of some other prevention service such as rental assistance to prevent an eviction.  A welfare referral is not required, but reflects our regular conversations with local officials seeking assistance for their community residents. Once a client is enrolled in our program we quickly connect them with their local welfare department to ensure they have access to resources we are not able to provide. 
We receive many contacts from local hospitals, mental health units, and correctional institutions seeking emergency shelter for those being discharged.  Those individuals are considered for residence based on space availability. We also assist local police departments and the homeless outreach intervention program who often identify an individual from the community with emergency shelter needs after typical operating hours of other support services. We have the ability to shelter someone temporarily on a cot in our living room for 1 – 3 nights while they seek other shelter.  My Friends’ Place regularly receives information requests from people wondering if there is room available – typically 1 – 4 calls per day.  In addition we receive at least a call per day from an individual or family who is willing to take a few minutes to share their story, and to let us provide telephone referrals to other resources. Individuals/families being sheltered has dropped by 16% since 2007 though not because of lack of need.  During this same period the average stay in a shelter rose to 42 days from 35.

How does My Friends Place Interact with Other Programs​

Our Staff  Experience

 We have frequent contacts with local welfare departments, notifying them of imminent vacancies and accepting their referrals on a regular basis.  This relationship is important as it allows us to verify homelessness, provides another support system for individuals and families, and guarantees that we will have early contact with local homeless people.  Our relationship with welfare departments provides a significant resource for our clients when they need to obtain a security deposit or first month’s rent, and when they need to obtain medications and have little or no income. For an individual seeking a rooming house we will regularly rebate a portion of rent they have given us to assist them with paying their first rent payment.  We also maintain a list of rooming houses available and refer individuals as soon as they are able to pay rent. We have used the rapid re-housing program when it was managed through Crossroads House in Portsmouth.  We expect to work closely with the Strafford County CAP in the delivery of the new rapid Re-housing program. For residents able to seek employment we provide employment leads through newspapers, web search, the local Employment Security office, and the local day labor provider:  labor ready.  We review a client’s employment search history as part of a case manager’s review in order to provide guidance with gaining interviews and ultimate employment.  We also will refer individuals seeking disability to Vocational Rehab and local employment security offices that can offer employment assistance that may be a better choice than seeking disability.