[Hpn] Former Hudson NH Dormitory To Give Homeless Families A Place To Stay

William C. Tinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Sat, 9 Jul 2005 10:30:57 -0400

July 9, 2005

Former Hudson dormitory to give homeless families place to stay

The Telegraph

HUDSON, N.H. (AP) - No one has occupied the east or west wings of the Anne
Marie House for nearly two years.

The library shelves are empty. Cobwebs have collected along the basement
floorboards, and the wallpaper in the dining room is beginning to yellow and

The study and sitting rooms are still furnished, but no one uses them. All
24 beds in the house are made, but every closet is bare. The heavy drapes on
the windows are closed, and there's a faint musty odor in the air.

The Anne Marie House was built in 1983 and is on the grounds of Presentation
of Mary Academy. For the first 20 years of its life, the dormitory-style
building housed nuns-in-training.

Today, those novice nuns reside in a smaller house on the other side of the
school. They're fewer in number now and don't need a space as large as the
Anne Marie House, so the purpose of the building is being redirected to
serve homeless families.

The Greater Nashua Interfaith Hospitality Network is moving to the Anne
Marie House in August. Until then, volunteers from several area religious
congregations will be spending their Thursdays and Saturdays preparing the
building to once again be used.

The sisters have maintained the home well, but a 20-year-old building that
hasn't been occupied for two years needs some work, said Curt Potter,
Greater Nashua Interfaith Hospitality Network's facilities director, who
organizes and leads the work sessions.

The group provides transitional shelter, meals and support to homeless
families in the Nashua area. The organization officially opened its doors
last November, but not in the location the board of directors thought would
be most ideal.

Discussions had started in January 2004 - nearly a year before the opening -
for the group to occupy the Anne Marie House. However, parents concern over
the safety of children who attend Presentation of Mary Academy delayed the
move until this summer, Sister Sue Bourret said.

The concerns have been addressed and actually helped to identify safety
issues the school needed to think about, Bourret said. They realized the
school and the shelter should have separate entrances, and have since
constructed a second driveway leading up to the Anne Marie House, she said.

Welcoming the network was important to the Presentation of Mary order
because serving the poor is a vital part of its mission, second only to
education, Bourret said.

During the delay, network members began using a facility that could not meet
the demands of its 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week operation. Currently,
guests spend working hours in a day center on Daniel Webster Highway in
Nashua. At night, they stay in churches, synagogues, or other places of
worship that volunteer their space on a weekly basis.

The organization is only hosting three families - a total of nine people -
right now, because of the space limitations of the day center. There is no
private space for the families as it is, said executive director Laurie
Skibba. There's also no air conditioning in the small building, so it's too
hot to hold more people, she said.

"I just could not bring another family into this situation," Skibba said.
"Everything is common space here."

Staying in one place during the day and somewhere else at night can also be
difficult for the families, she said. When they move to the Anne Marie
House, they won't have to do that anymore.

"Were moving from our rotation model to a fixed model, which will give our
families the stability they don't get in a rotating model," Skibba said.

The network will also be able to support more families when it officially
moves to the Anne Marie House. The group will start with up to 14 people,
but the capacity of the building is 26 for overnight stays. The home could
probably hold more comfortably.

Most of the house's bedrooms are only large enough for a twin-sized bed and
a desk, but a few are bigger and will be used for families with very young
children. The bathrooms are dormitory-style - each with several sink, shower
and toilet stalls.

Downstairs, there's a study that will be used for doing homework, a library
that will hold computers, a living room and even a chapel. There's a
recreation room in the basement complete with a pingpong table, exercise
bikes and a television.

Most of the furniture and equipment already there is usable and in good
condition, Potter said. However, the volunteers will have to bring in more
furniture, finish cleaning and landscaping, and make minor repairs to the

Potter and a handful of volunteers concentrated on the landscaping portion
of that task in the hot sun last Thursday morning. They're trying to remove
all the weeds and put mulch in the flower beds. If they have enough time,
they'll plant mums, Potter said.

Inside, they've had to replace sink faucets and put a dishwasher in the
kitchen. They'll soon have an alarm system installed and are planning a deep
cleaning this Saturday, Potter said. A fence is going to be built in the
backyard to give the children a place to play, he said.

But aside from routine work and minor repairs, they're not really doing much
to the building. They almost couldn't have asked for a space better suited
to the organization, he said.

"It's as close to ideal as you can imagine for this use," Potter said.

 2005 Geo. J. Foster Company