Sunshine

PLYMOUTH – Trish Murphy’s job as a homelessness prevention outreach worker includes everything from filling out housing applications and driving shelter residents to submit them, to listening without judgement to painful stories about her clients’ pasts.

Crystal Cutting says she’ll be forever grateful.

Murphy helped Cutting become independent when she arrived in 2015 with her 3-year old at Bridge House – a facility to help homeless people and veterans – and became one of Murphy’s first clients in her new role as a homelessness problem solver.

Cutting, who is originally from Massachusetts, relocated to Florida after an acrimonious divorce, then moved with her mother to her sister’s house in Littleton, where she lived until she and her child were asked to leave.

Not only did Murphy triage the obstacles, internal and external, that Cutting needed to surmount, she provided a listening ear. “She’s a beautiful woman inside and out,” said Cutting, now 39 and living with her two children in Plymouth. “She takes humans and their lives under her care – no matter who we are and where we came from, with no judgement at all.”

With Murphy’s help lining up resources, including a Head Start program for her daughter, Cutting moved into an apartment with another woman who had also spent time at Bridge House. After a year she was able to get a place of her own in local subsidized housing, where she currently lives with her daughter and adult son.

“It really helped having someone support me without judging me,” said Cutting, who had depended on two ex-partners for living expenses before getting a career aptitude assessment, training and landing a job at Hannaford. “Trish believed in me and she could see through different things. Emotional and mental support is huge. She’s full of advice and kind words, and always knows what to say to get you through,” said Cutting, who stays in touch with Murphy.

In 2016 Murphy helped her get a free, refurbished used car through the Good News Garage, which enabled Cutting to secure transportation.   

“I was cleaning out my cabinets and I wondered if she knew a family in need that could use the food,” said Cutting. Murphy connected her with a needy family in the same housing complex.

Also indebted to Murphy is Arnold Piper, a single father of middle school-aged children now living in public housing in Plymouth. After the family was evicted from their Bristol home for non-payment of rent – which Piper said was after the children’s mother left, they spent most of the next three years homeless, except for six months in an apartment in Ashland. They stayed with Piper’s parents in Meredith before Murphy helped them find an affordable unit in Plymouth.

“I lost a lot of furniture.  I saved everything I could for the children in a storage unit. I paid everything I could to continue to support things in my children’s life,” Piper said.

Since a car accident in 2011, Piper has received disability payments that would end if he worked full time, so he does odd jobs as they become available, through people he knows.

When they lived in Meredith, the town welfare director helped Piper with gas vouchers. Now Lakes Region Food Pantry provides food vouchers to subsidize the $327/month the family receives in food stamps. Murphy sets aside provisions for the Pipers from Bridge House. Recently that included a large box of frozen meat and vegetables and fresh fruit. She’s also brought games for the children.

Within the last month Murphy intervened to get Piper’s driver’s license reinstated, a court date changed and his considerable fine dropped for failing to appear in court the day he was in a car accident. His original charges were for driving an unregistered, uninspected vehicle that he couldn’t afford to repair.

“She has done everything she can possibly do to help me,” said Piper – including making this Christmas memorable for his tribe of four. This season, Murphy gave Piper's name to a relatively well-off family who wanted to help a struggle local family:  Piper received $500 in Wal-Mart gift cards, which he used to purchase his children’s first Christmas tree, and presents for his children ages 9, 10 and 12.  

“Praise God and praise Trish, too,” said Piper, who said he cried when he opened the envelope. “She made that possible. It was more than anybody ever heard of.”

Occasionally strangers give Piper $20 bills to buy things when they see the family shopping together. “I get, ‘Wow, that must be tough.’ Here I am, left to deal with it all. I’m just doing what I do for my kids. It’s just common sense.  I’m blessed every day.  They’re healthy and I still take care of them.  I’m on my knees every morning and night with a good prayer.  People see I’m trying to do something right for the right reasons. I think that’s what you call it: I’m paying it forward.”

•••

The Sunshine Project is underwritten by grants from the Endowment for Health, New Hampshire’s largest health foundation, and the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.

Roberta Baker can be reached by email at Roberta@laconiadailysun.com

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