MANCHESTER, NH – Kadyja Harris found herself homeless at just 17 years old, couch surfing in friends’ homes and utilizing temporary drop-in centers for food and clothing in the Manchester area. Like the hundreds of other homeless residents living day to day in New Hampshire, Harris didn’t know that there were options to change her life. But it was after two years of scraping by that she came in contact with a case manager from the Transitional Living Program at Waypoint.
“I made up a lot of excuses at first for not wanting to enter the program,” Harris recalls, “but eventually, we connected after my initial hesitation and I was able to succeed and, eventually, receive my bachelor’s degree.”
Under the Transitional Living Program, Waypoint offers safe temporary housing for New Hampshire residents ages 18 to 21 who are experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness. Through the housing, homeless youth are able to receive assistance with employment, finishing high school education or equivalent while contributing a portion of their income to rent and savings. Last year, Waypoint assisted 60 youths in the Transitional Living Program, and another 28 in the Rapid Rehousing Program.
It was through this program that Harris was able to get back on her feet. After graduating from high school on her own in 2013, Waypoint provided a safe space for her to pursue a degree at Southern New Hampshire University, where she is studying for her master’s.
“Housing was the most important thing Waypoint gave me,” Harris says. “I was able to complete my associate degree first which I couldn’t have done without Waypoint’s help. My laptop broke and I was given a $1,000 scholarship to help pay for a new one. Without it, I couldn’t have finished school.”
While the Transitional Living Program helped Harris succeed, Waypoint also offers a number of other programs for homeless youth, including counseling for families to repair strained relationships that may cause youth homelessness in the first place. These programs are accessible to families and youth in Manchester, Dover, and Concord.
Thanks to Waypoint services, Harris, now 26 and a mom to a 3-year-old, has gone on to receive several degrees and is currently working toward her master’s in criminal justice at SNHU. She also works full time as the assistant director for the Youth Success Project which is fiscally sponsored by Plymouth State University, giving back to the very people who gave her a shot at success and the chance to pay forward that same opportunity to homeless youth across the state.
Her advice for any young person struggling is simple.
“Get connected with a case manager,” Harris says. “There are options out there for youth. At seventeen, I thought I was on my own but there are people who want to help and give homeless youth a chance to succeed at Waypoint.”
On March 25, Waypoint will be hosting its annual SleepOut Challenge to raise awareness of youth homelessness in the Granite State. Held remotely this year due to the ongoing pandemic, participants will spend a night out in the cold in solidarity with youth enduring homelessness in New Hampshire. To register, visit waypointnh.org/happenings/sleepout2022
Waypoint was founded in 1850 as the Manchester City Missionary Society and has rebranded as a private, nonprofit organization providing dozens of social services to families throughout the Manchester area. To get in touch with a case manager or to learn more about Waypoint’s services, visit waypointnh.org.