Southwestern Community Services assistance programs.

Cheshire and Sullivan County New Hampshire residents are served by the Southwestern Community Services. A goal of the non-profits to help low income, unemployed, and struggling families get back on the path to self-sufficiency. That is the focus.

However, some short term assistance, or referrals to financial aid, may be available as resources allow. A main goal is to prevent homeless and utility disconnection, especially for seniors, families with children, and the disabled.

Energy bill assistance and conservation

SCS Energy Services runs several assistance programs, including some crisis components, that are especially designed to help the residents of Cheshire and Sullivan Counties. Their programs include the Electric Assistance Program, Fuel Assistance, the Senior Energy Assistance Program and also the Neighbor Helping Neighbor Program.

The Electric Assistance Program helps qualified low income customers get a rebate or credit on their monthly power bill. Qualifying factors include the household gross income and the type of space heating installed in the home. Cheshire and Sullivan families can apply for the Electric Assistance Program any time during the year.

Residents over the age of 60 can look into the Senior Energy Assistance Program. It provides funding and energy assistance funds to low-income Cheshire and Sullivan residents who otherwise not capable of caring for themselves with appropriate supportive services.

The New Hampshire Fuel Assistance Program provides funds and cash grants for heating, natural gas and utility expenses to handicapped, elderly, and low-income residents of Cheshire and Sullivan counties.

The Neighbor Helping Neighbor Program can be applied for at Southwestern Community Services. It  provides financial assistance to residents who need help to meet their utility and energy expenses but do not qualify to benefit for the Fuel Assistance Program mentioned above. This non-profit charitable funding is generously supported by corporate matching contributions from customers and employees of companies including Natural Gas, Northern Utilities, Unitil/Exeter & Hampton Electric, Public Service of New Hampshire, Keyspan, Granite State Electric and Unitil/Concord Electron.




Weatherization assistance is for eligible poor and low income households in Cheshire and Sullivan Counties. They can also avail of this conservation program. It was designed to reduce all energy and heating bills for qualified low-income households, providing them with warmer and safer homes all year round. In general, only families that are eligible for the LIHEAP Fuel Assistance Program can apply for Weatherization Assistance. Also note that the elderly, handicapped, and households with small and young children are given priority to receive grants.

Some of the benefits of the Weatherization program include lowering a family’s energy expenses by 19-22%, ensuring that all qualified families have warmer, safer, and more comfortable homes, and improving a family’s general living conditions.

Housing assistance from SCS

The New Hampshire Home Ownership Program that is administered by Southwestern Community Services makes it possible for modest-to-low income homebuyers to buy homes that are renovated and designed to be safe and energy efficient.

Not only that, but SCS also provides low-income families and seniors a variety of affordable housing units that are spread across 11 different towns. Heat and hot water expenses are included in the monthly rents.

Southwestern Community Services’ Housing Rehabilitation Program helps home owners in Cheshire and Sullivan Counties make much-needed repairs to their homes. Those who qualify for help include moderate to low income families, elderly residents who get by on pensions or Social Security benefits, single parents, and couples with young children. If you qualify then it can help all individuals and families who struggle to make ends meet on a daily basis.

Housing Rehab and Improvement resources are is designed to help people stay in their homes and keep them safe and in good repair. While funding and the scope of the program is limited, SCS staff can advise on the latest and process applications.

Households receive assistance for approved improvements according to a priority system that keeps in mind deficiencies such as their health factors, life safety factors and housing code violations. Homeowners from the region may receive funding and assistance for taking care of electrical or plumbing repairs and upgrades, roof replacements, structural repairs, improving septic, water supply and heating systems and increasing accessibility for handicapped individuals.

Short term housing from Southwestern Community Services (SCS) is available in the form of a temporary, emergency shelter that aims to assist families and individuals who have a housing crisis. These shelters are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year in Cheshire and Sullivan counties.

Guests who enter the emergency shelter program receive comprehensive case management to help with reaching and maintaining self-sufficiency. This includes job search, budgeting classes and more. The goal is to help individuals and families get back into their communities into safe affordable housing.

Guidance and comprehensive case management includes daily or weekly meetings with the case manager for needs and goals assessments, budget counseling and savings program. It can also include referrals and support for substance abuse and mental health treatment, life skills workshops include time management, nutrition, family planning, and free access to the telephone and computer.

The main goal of the Homeless Outreach Program is to befriend the unsheltered homeless. Other aid offered to them can be shelter, food, hot meals, medical treatment and other basic survival necessities. Another service is the Transitional Housing Program. This provides homeless families and individuals with rental units and a comprehensive program along with extended term case management.

Residents of Cheshire and Sullivan County that were evicted and who are homeless or those afflicted with serious mental health issues and/or substance abuse issues can avail themselves of a limited number of Rental Assistance vouchers. The program provides recipients with a sense of stability and permanency and links them to available public assistance programs, job training and other opportunities. Loans for security deposits are available from the Housing Security Guarantee Program. It provides eligible consumers with no-interest loans that can be used towards paying rental security deposits.





The Homeless Prevention/Intervention program is designed to help individuals or families who are in imminent danger of becoming homeless. The services provided under this emergency rental assistance program include one-time financial support, landlord/tenant mediation as well as referrals to other resources and free budget counseling.

Free Foreclosure Intervention/Housing Stability Counseling aims to help Sullivan County and nearby homeowners who are behind on their mortgage and at risk of becoming homeless. Homeowners receive transitional housing information and step by step assistance for retaining their home.

Another housing resource is Mortgage Delinquency Counseling. It also provides homeowners with valuable foreclosure prevention strategies. A housing counselor acts as a mediator between the homeowner and the lender/servicer/bank throughout the mortgage assistance request to achieve a successful resolution. This service is free of charge and advice is easily available by calling 603-719-4294.

Additional programs from Southwestern Community Services

Head Start is a government funded, free, income-based preschool program for children. The school is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Head Start has a few centers conveniently located throughout the greater Cheshire and Sullivan Counties with the main office located at Southwestern Community Services in Keene New Hampshire. Children who attend Head Start also get a free nutritious breakfast and lunch daily.

The Sullivan County ServiceLink program provides information, assistance and referrals for disabled adults, adults 60 years and over and their families and caregivers. The non-profit will work with them to empower them to live full, independent lives. In addition to providing information and referrals, ServiceLink also offers support and encouragement, educational services, connection to available services, government benefits and follow up services, wherever and whenever necessary.

ServiceLink offers those that qualify a range of services, from assistance with caring for elderly parents and finding alternatives to a nursing home to looking for help for a family member. Counselors work with individuals on dealing with depression, isolation and the inability to cope. They also help you better understand Medicare and supplemental insurance guidelines and benefits.

Food and formula from Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) aims to provide children and mothers with free of charge services. This will include nutrition education, supplemental foods, formula and health care referrals. It is for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding post-partum women, and to infants and children up to 5 years of age. Clients of WIC are given supplemental nutritious foods, nutrition education and counseling at WIC clinics and screening and referrals to other health, welfare and social services.




Southwestern Community Services also offers Workforce Development Services. These are provided by SCS in partnership with other state of New Hampshire and local agencies. Some of the services offered include career guidance and planning, resume writing, workplace skill identification, interview skills, job search and placement. Funds for paying for classroom training/on-the-job training may also be available.

Through the Workforce Investment Act, SCS provides employment counselors at the NH One-Stop Job and Information Centers in nearby Claremont, Lebanon and Keene. Those eligible for the WIA program include the unemployed as well as adult workers who are unable to obtain or retain employment that allows them to be self-sufficient. Dislocated Workers are also eligible for the WIA program. This includes recent veterans, military spouses, displaced homemakers and individuals who are finding it difficult to obtain employment as well as those who have exhausted their unemployment benefits.

Southwestern Community Services has a few locations in the area. They are as follows.

  • Cheshire County, 63 Community Way, Keene, New Hampshire 03431, call 603.352.7512 or dial toll Free: 800.529.0005
  • Sullivan County, 96-102 Main Street, Claremont, NH 03743. The phone number is 603.542.9528.


By Jon McNamara

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