For years prior to 1981, John Hynes, a local restaurateur, fed people in need at his local restaurants. He and local clergy members housed people in local hotels until the demand became overwhelming. Cross Roads House was organized and registered with the state of New Hampshire in 1982.
In 1983, Reverend Gordon Allen of St. John’s Episcopal Church approached Joe Sawtelle about setting up a shelter. A man had recently frozen to death on the streets of Boston, putting the issue of homelessness in the public eye. Shortly thereafter, Sawtelle came before the Portsmouth clergy with the thought of using a building he owned at 103 Marcy St. (currently housing the Player’s Ring) for an emergency shelter. He quickly added a bathroom to the building and it opened on February 1, 1984.
In June of 1984, the Pine Tree Motel on Lafayette Road was purchased by Joe Sawtelle. The motel consisted of a main house and several cabins, plus a one-story motel building. People were sheltered there for a short time that autumn, but the cabins and main house were not properly winterized. The group got city approval to return to Marcy Street for the winter of 1984-85. The permanent move to Lafayette Road was made in 1985. Subsequently, a dormitory addition expanded space in the main house, the cabins were removed, and a four-unit apartment house was moved to the site.
In 1986, Cross Roads House was incorporated as a 501(c)( 3) charitable institution and hired its first employee.
In 1987, Cross Roads House was awarded a $200,000 Housing and Urban Development Transitional Housing Grant to offer transitional shelter. The program was then restructured to provide both emergency and transitional shelter.
In 1988, Joe Sawtelle requested that Cross Roads House purchase the Lafayette Road property. This was achieved by conducting a capital campaign to raise funds and by taking on a small mortgage.
In 1994, the four- unit building was converted for use as transitional shelter for families.
In 1998-99, a dramatic shortage of available shelter beds in the area was becoming apparent. Through the efforts of many donors and volunteers, a second floor was quickly added to the "motel" shelter building. Also in 1999, a modular office building was donated and placed at CRH, allowing offices to be moved out of the main shelter building.
In 2000, the kitchen in the main building was closed for individual use and renovated. CRH then started a meal program in which volunteers served dinner Monday-Friday, year round. From 2000 to 2008, the shelter capacity was roughly 100 beds, with emergency and transitional programs for families and individuals. Indoor learning and outdoor playground spaces for resident children were constructed. Weekend meal service was added in 2006.
In 2007 Cross Roads House announced a $5 million capital campaign to design and construct a new shelter facility. Plans included the replacement of three older buildings with one, at the current location, and the renovation of one remaining building.
Building renovations began with the demolition of the four-unit apartment house and modular offices in 2008. The new shelter building was opened on Thanksgiving Eve, 2009. The original motel house and dormitory addition were demolished shortly thereafter.
The first local “rapid rehousing” program was launched in 2009, which helped place families in rental housing instead of the shelter and provided in-home supports. Also in 2009, the new main shelter facility was completed and occupied, and the old shelter was demolished to make room for the new parking area.
In 2012, completion of family building renovations marked the end of recent facility improvements. The combined bed total between the main shelter building and the six bedrooms in the family building is approximately 100 beds.
In 2013, Chris Sterndale stepped down as Executive Director of Cross Roads House after thirteen years. Martha Stone, who had served as the Development Director for nine years, was promoted to replace him.
Thanks to funding from The NH Charitable Foundation’s Entrepreneurs’ Fund AMP Award and Eastern Bank’s Strengthening Families grant, in July 2016 Cross Roads House began providing post shelter case management to individuals and families. This program helps clients establish connections to community supports beyond the shelter, assists clients with maintaining their housing, and lessens the likelihood of returning to homelessness.
In August 2016, Cross Roads House implemented a Permanent Supportive Housing program. This innovative HUD funded program serves chronically homeless individuals following the Housing First model, an approach that prioritizes providing people experiencing homelessness with permanent housing as quickly as possible, and then providing voluntary supportive2016 services as needed. Our Permanent Supportive Housing Case Manager works with clients to obtain and maintain housing, provide ongoing, in-home supports, and connect with community resources that will help the client remain stably housed.