MANCHESTER, NH — Waypoint President & CEO Borja Alvarez de Toledo and Major Joyce Craig were joined by approximately 125 staff, donors, architects, construction workers, politicians and interested Manchester citizens to celebrate the ribbon cutting at 298 Hanover St. on a 14-bed Youth Resource Center and Overnight Emergency Shelter. Seven of the beds are considered nightly while seven are available on a two-week basis. It is the only emergency shelter for youth and young adults in the state and will serve the age range of 12 to 24. The facility will be open 24/7.
“I can’t say enough about how grateful we all are,” Mayor Craig said. “The need for what we have here is so great.”
Funding in part for the $2.4 million project came from federal and local sources, including the Bean and Hunt Foundations, the City of Manchester, the Stebbins Family and the NH Charitable Foundation.
The building, built in 1854 and originally an Elks home, was used as part of a day program for the Greater Manchester Mental Health Center and most recently by the New Hampshire Office of Employment Security. The final railings were put in place Thursday morning and services will be available this coming Monday, which happens to be Halloween. Rochester will open its youth resource center for youth on Monday as well.
It is difficult to make a shelter feel like a home but Waypoint has made a definitive effort. The nightly beds have approximately 6-foot high dividers between neighbors. A simple thing like a nightstand grounds a bedroom. It’s generally the nearest thing to the sleeper’s head other than the bedding. The interior is clean and simple. Problems are welcome. Chaos is not.
Pride flags and Eastern prayer flags are in plain sight with bathrooms open to all genders and gender expressions. According to the University of Chicago, LGBTQ youth are 2.2 times more likely than their heterosexual peers to experience homelessness with LGBTQ youth of color 4.4 times more likely. The statistics on street violence directed at LGBTQ youth show similar patterns with women and girls the most vulnerable. 1.1 million children in the United States had a young parent experience homelessness within the last year.
The staff of the resource center will help youth do futures’ planning, work on independent living skills, utilize case management, and seek other supports and services.
Alvarez de Toledo singled out Mayor Craig for praise.
“This place will be completely transformative,” he said. “It is a dream come true. Mayor Craig is a person committed to ending youth homelessness in our city. She walked all over Manchester, talked to youth, and saw the problem first-hand.”
Ward 12 Alderman Erin George-Kelly is the Director and Coordinator for Homeless Youth and posted her support on Facebook for a Manchester resolution marking the International Day of Transgender Visibility this past March 31. She thanked all the people who made the center and shelter possible.