Community invited to participate in homelessness forum on Monday evening

LACONIA — On Monday night residents are encouraged to join representatives of at least eight civic organizations at 5:30 p.m. for a community night at the Laconia Middle School to address the growing problem of homelessness and near-homelessness in and around the city.

After a free dinner, at 6 p.m. everyone is invited to watch the wward-winning short documentary fillm "Inocente" — an uplifting story about a 15-year-old homeless girl who attends school, uses art to express herself, all while hiding her homelessness from the other students in her class.

Following the dinner, attendees are asked to stay and talk among themselves to see what it is all can do address homelessness and near homelessness.

According to Carol Pierce — a member of the Hope for the Homelessness Coalition in Laconia, as government financial safety nets give way, many fall though to homelessness.

It can mean living in a car, staying on a couch or in the living room of a friend or family — or it can mean hunkering down in one of the area's parking garages to keep out of the worst part of the wind and weather in the cold.

Pierce said a growing number of young people between the ages of 18 and 24 are finding it increasing harder to find jobs — and many that do find the money they earn is not enough to keep a roof over their heads.

She said there are a number of contributing factors to homelessness including not enough money, domestic violence, alcohol and drug abuse, and mental illness and depression.

The goal of gathering everyone together in one room Monday night is to get as many people as possible to join together to work on homelessness.

The evening is not just for the members of the various agencies who provide direct assistance like Genesis Behavior Help, New Beginnings or the city Police Department and School District.

The goal to to bring all of the stakeholders together in one place, at one time, and with one agenda — to combine the resources the community already had with the resources out in the community who, until now, didn't think they had much to contribute.

According to Len Campbell of Catholic Charities, everyone in the community — rich or poor — has something to contribute to this project.
"We, as a community, need to be part of a continuing conversation on the causes and varying solutions for those who are in such dire need," Pierce said.

"Please join us," she asked.