Spring may be on the horizon, but it’s been an awfully cold winter – and for neighbors in need in Lebanon and beyond, it’s a good thing our community is home to an office of Tri-County CAP.
Tri-County Community Action Programs, by its long name, serves residents of Grafton, Carroll, and Coös counties with resources that can help them with home energy costs and conservation, housing, transportation, and more. And if Tri-County CAP doesn’t have a program to help a person in need, they know who does.
“We offer a huge referral system for people in our New Hampshire Upper Valley,” said Upper Valley Community Contact Office Manager Angel Hudson. “We never turn somebody away without some sort of resource. We never leave somebody with an ‘I don’t know.’”
Hudson focuses on the offices fuel and electric assistance programs, which have been “crazy” this year as electric rates have climbed. The programs help low-income, “vulnerable households” pay for heating fuel or electric bills when they can’t do it on their own.
As of late January, Hudson had processed more than 500 fuel assistance applications, had about 50 more to work through, and was expecting to top last year’s 644 applications before the season ends in April. She had also received 430 applications for electric assistance.
In addition, she had handled 37 emergency contacts – cases where the fuel supply is dangerously low (or electric heat is about to be disconnected) and the resident can’t afford more.
Most of the funding for these programs comes from the Federal government, through the state’s Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Hudson also raises private funds to cover when government funding falls short. Her “FAP Gap” (Fuel-Assistance Program Gap) fund helps qualified clients if available fuel assistance alone can’t cover the minimum fuel delivery cost, an overdue bill prevents them from getting a fuel delivery, or they run out of fuel assistance funding.
“I’m not going to let somebody go cold if I can help in some way,” Hudson said.
Hudson is one of just two full-time employees in the Lebanon office. Her colleague, Dianne Munson, manages the office’s homeless outreach programs.
The primary goal, Hudson said, is to find shelter beds in New Hampshire for local people who need a place to go. With no shelter in the Lebanon area, clients are most often sent to Claremont, Concord, or Manchester, and sometimes north to Tri-County’s Tyler Blain House in Lancaster.
(Some readers may remember Tyler Blain, a 1996 Lebanon High School graduate who died tragically in 2006. Toward the end of his life he worked tirelessly for Tri-County CAP’s homeless outreach programs and helped launch an effort called 10 Bricks to provide emergency shelter for adults without children – which at the time was entirely lacking in the Upper Valley – in Lebanon.)
But the number of shelter beds in the state is limited, and “on any cold day, it is very difficult to find a shelter bed – they are packed,” Hudson said. When traditional shelter beds can’t be found during the cold winter months, privately raised money from the 10 Bricks fund pays for hotel stays, or the cost of transportation to shelter elsewhere.
The organization’s homeless programs also offer income-based funding in the form of no-interest loans to help people experiencing homelessness pay security deposits and rent requirements to get into apartments of their own.
Hudson shared one story of why she has dedicated more than six years to her work at Tri-County CAP. Last year, she worked with a single mother with three children who was having a hard time getting on her feet financially and had been “couch surfing” to keep a roof over their heads. Through Tri-County’s programs and in collaboration with other local agencies, Hudson was able to help the family secure housing in a matter of days of applying for assistance.
“She and her children gave me a homemade gift, and she said, ‘You have no idea how much this means to us. We have a home now, and it’s been a while since we’ve had our own beds,’” Hudson said. “That’s why I do this work. It’s the mental money. This is a great community, and I want to help as much as I can and do good deeds to make it a better place.”
For more information on programs offered through Tri-County CAP’s Lebanon office or to make a donation to the FAP Gap or 10 Bricks funds, call (603) 443-6100 or email TCCAPAngel@Gmail.com.