Adequate affordable housing is vital for eliminating housing instability and homelessness among extremely low-income households. However, the current demand for affordable housing in Keene dwarfs the supply, and consistent shortfalls and funding reductions for housing assistance have prevented local programs from helping all those who require it.

Homelessness does not discriminate. People from all walks of life can find themselves faced with a crisis that leads them to become homeless. Often homelessness stems from a convergence of a number of interrelated factors; for example, the inability to secure a job or permanent housing following a release from prison; or, for a low-wage, single working mother with no benefits or savings, an illness of a child requiring a hospital stay could put both at risk of homelessness.

Nevertheless, certain populations are impacted by homelessness at greater rates. Young people, victims of domestic violence, those with severe mental illness, people with mental or physical disabilities, people with substance abuse disorders and the formerly incarcerated all have an increased risk of homelessness.

We should consider creating a plan to end homelessness that would identify key system improvements, build up community collaboration and political will to address the issues, and direct community resources efficiently. We can work with private-market landlords to increase access to units for low-income households. This could be facilitated by developing a program that makes contact with private landlords and property-management companies in the communities for families in need. Such a program could include regular rent payments and a landlord contingency fund to cover any damages incurred. It should provide tenant education services to improve a family’s understanding of its lease and rights as well as being a liaison between the tenant and landlord.