No roof over their heads: Thousands of NH youth are homeless; Waypoint looks to raise awareness and funds

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Kids in crisis – not a new problem, but one that Waypoint is dedicated to helping solve. Photo – “Nomads of the Street”, street children in their sleeping quarters, 1890 – New York. Photo/Jacob Riss/Wikimedia

MANCHESTER, NH – According to Waypoint, it is estimated that approximately 15,000 young people will experience some form of homelessness this year in NH.

15,000.  

Kids.

While you absorb that, consider the words of Kat Strange, Waypoint’s Director of Communications. 

“The issue of youth homeless is one we’ve been seeking to address for many years and is the primary focus of our annual sleep-out event in late March,” she says.  “But like many societal issues, the COVID-19 pandemic has really clarified what a significant problem this is.”

Strange went on to add that prior to the pandemic and school schedules being disrupted, children in need could at least access the school lunch program or learning resources, or “even a warm place to be for a few hours a day.”  With that safety net now stretched to the breaking point, the need is here and now.

“The virus and the many effects really kicked kids in need when they are already down,” said Strange.  “We know that young people are undercounted when it comes to determining homelessness, so the issue is likely larger and more prevalent.  She said the Waypoint (formerly Child and Family Services) is the only provider of comprehensive services dedicated to youth homelessness in the state.  “We not only want to cast a wider safety net,” she states, “but also look to stem the tide through prevention, support and education.”

Jeff Seifert, regional VP of TD Bank, sleeps out from afar during Waypoint’s virtual SleepOut 2020. Courtesy Photo

Strange said the agency’s annual SleepOut 2021 is set for March 26 and due to the pandemic, will be held remotely. Now in its 7th year, the SleepOut is a night spent out in the cold to raise community consciousness and critical funds “that will transform the lives of homeless youth and get another step closer to ending youth homelessness in NH.”  She said that proceeds of the event will support Waypoint’s continuum of programs, which include survival aid and basic needs relief, as well as services to help with education, job training, and life skills that will contribute to clients’ long-range stability.  

“The success of the SleepOut event will enable us to expand our services to other areas in the state (with drop-in centers in Rochester and Concord, and a small overnight shelter in Manchester),” Strange said.

The effort raised nearly $350,000 in 2020 and Strange says that despite the changes to the event, the agency hopes to exceed that amount later this spring.  Those wishing to register or learn more can visit: https://waypointnh.org/happenings/sleepout-2021

Over the next few weeks, Manchester Ink Link will be sharing stories about youth homelessness in the 603.  Our goal is to provide not only context to this problem but also shed important light on how the collective “we” can work to effect meaningful change and create a better trajectory in the early lives of youth in need.  I invite your questions and comments at Chrisdugan@manchesterinklink.com.