Workshop aims to teach leadership skills to homeless

Union Leader

MANCHESTER — Workshops will start in November aimed at teaching homeless or formerly homeless people advocacy, communication and leadership skills.

Dubbed Granite Leaders Program, it is the third time the program has been offered by the New Hampshire Coalition to End Homelessness.

“This is really about making connections between people making decisions about homlessness and the people who are homeless,” said Cathy Kuhn, director of the New Hampshire Coalition to End Homelessness. Twenty-two people from across the state have already graduated from two earlier classes. Granite Leaders hopes to accept as many as 15 for the half-day sessions, which start in November.

Manchester resident Chrissy Simonds, 44, took the program in 2014, the first year it was offered. At that point, the single mom was living in an apartment; she and her son had not been homeless for about eight years. But homelessness, she said, never really leaves you.

“I feel like I have a vested part in it. I never want to see someone going through what I went through,” Simonds said.

Since completing the program, Simonds has blogged for BK Nation.org. She has testified before state Senate committees. And she’s appeared before the Manchester School Board to encourage busing for kindergarten.

Kuhn said other graduates now sit on boards and committees, testify at hearings, write letters to the editor and engage the media.

There are six classes in all, and they lean toward hands-on learning: a field trip to the State House, a media panel and visit to a television station.

Kuhn said the program welcomes people from across the state. Transportation is the biggest challenge, and a small stipend is provided to those who complete the program.

The effort, she said, is to make connections between decision makers and the people who benefit from their decisions.

“The voices of people experiencing homelessness,” Kuhn said, “have not been heard.”

Granite Leaders is currently accepting applications. Participants can apply online at www.nhceh.org/GraniteLeaders. The application deadline is Oct. 19.

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