NH’s first Youth Emergency Shelter: The beginning of a new future

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Ribbon was cut on the Waypoint youth shelter on Hanover Street on Oct. 27, 2022. Photo/Waypoint

MANCHESTER, NH – On an evening in late October, the residence at 298 Hanover St. appears as a simple brick building blending in with the others in the city of Manchester. But once you step through the doors, the place enlivens with Manchester’s who’s-who of placemakers, policy makers, philanthropists, educators, artists and general go-getters. They’ve gathered to celebrate the much-anticipated grand opening of New Hampshire’s first youth and young adult overnight shelter. The use of space and flow within Waypoint’s youth and young adult (YYA) shelter was innovatively designed by Anthony Mento and Jason Lacombe with SMP Architecture.

Created in 1850 as the Manchester City Missionary Society, the organization’s purpose was to “save the unclaimed souls of the city.” The organization changed with time, reflecting more data-based, empathetic and informed understanding regarding the needs of unhoused or displaced individuals. In 2018 when Child and Family Services updated their name to Waypoint, their mission signified “a point along a journey at which you change course… a lifeline across the lifespan.”

Common area at the Waypoint Youth Shelter and drop in center on Hanover Street. Courtesy Photo

The non-profit has been known for its Youth Resource Center serving an annual average of 9,000 children and families across the state, and on October 31, 2022, Waypoint extended its resources by implementing two centers for young people ages 12-24: one in Manchester and one in Rochester. The Manchester location also serves as an emergency shelter for youth ages 18-24. Now standing as the only youth overnight emergency shelter in the state of New Hampshire.

The building has three floors. Downstairs there is a communal kitchen, washing room, and bathroom along with fourteen beds each in its own cubicle with a lamp, side table, and charging outlet. Seven of these 14 beds will be raffled each night to give each person who signs up an unbiased chance to stay at the shelter. The other seven beds are raffled off every two weeks, for those who may need a longer stay. Potentially, an individual can have shelter until the point at which they find more permanent housing. On the main floor, there is a communal room, a front desk, a counseling office, a walk-in closet filled with donations of wearables, and a bathroom with a shower. On the third floor there are three apartments with their own kitchen, bed, and bathroom. Those who are struggling to find affordable housing can rent these spaces out for $600 for the small room, $700 for the medium room, and $800 for the large room.


But why? Why is this all so important in bettering the city of Manchester?

It is to ensure higher rates of opportunity, survival and resource assistance for those who are the future of the city. The human brain is not fully developed until 24, new research finds1. This is integral in understanding the impetus behind why Waypoint advocates providing safe spaces, shelter, and uplifting ideology in their YYA-specific locations until an individual is 24. Placing youth and young adults (YYA) into shelters where they are surrounded by adults struggling with drug abuse, housing instability, and mental health issues perpetuates the grim notion that their lives will hold more of the same burdens with little chance of breaking through.

How can we expect a young adult to have hopes for a different future if they are surrounded by more of the same types of trauma, violence, neglect and substance abuse?

Shelter supervisor Ellie Huot pictured during the recent open house celebration at Waypoint’s youth center. Courtesy Photo

While talking to Ward 12 Alderman Erin George-Kelly, who serves as director of Homeless Youth Services at Waypoint, she highlighted that it was the youth who asked for an emergency shelter; that this was something the young people of Manchester pushed for collectively and Waypoint’s outreach efforts and on the ground survey collection deduced such a succinct need. Waypoint’s success is that their employees are familiar with the culture and lived experiences of their clients; this is unique because having employees and managers shape the future of an organization without on-the-ground knowledge is antithetical to best practices.

Waypoint’s shelter doesn’t just offer a place to stay; it gives the youth a safe place to be themselves without judgment.

“Kids need a place to be weird,” said singer-songwriter Jasmine Mann, while speaking about possibly offering an open mic to those at the shelter, which will provide enrichment opportunities invariably facilitating positive outcomes on the mindset of participants in the arts engagement programs.

From left, Sarah Jones, program manager, Artist in Residence Yasamin Safarzadeh, and Jackie Taylor, the youth center’s rapid rehousing coordinator. Courtesy Photo

There were many creatives present that night, including Randal Nielson of Queerlective, Kenny Frasch and Alex Martel of House of Marvel Productions and Yasamin Safarzadeh who is fostering the arts programming at the shelter with hopes of utilizing networks established at Kimball Jenkins in order to offer the youth a creative outlet and a newfound comfortability within themselves.

When asking those at the opening of the shelter how this will positively affect Manchester, the resounding statement that these youth are our future was echoed throughout the responses. That if the city hopes to change for the better, it must start with the young people; offering services that will help them see a future for themselves as individuals and eventually as a whole.

Program Manager Sarah Jones said one thing that would go a long way is less stigma and a better understanding from the public of the human condition. “Sometimes I feel like that goes a longer way than the material stuff,” Jones said.

Jackie Taylor, the center’s Rapid Rehousing Coordinator, adds to that, saying what’s needed is a sense of safety.

“Just for the clients to be able to walk outside and know that they are seen and they are safe from arrests or harassment,” she says, prompting Jones to chime in again.

“Also for your past not to define you, and for a landlord to overlook the fact that you don’t have a rental history or that you have a rental voucher,” she said.

What to look out for:

  • Waypoint Feastivus on Dec. 9, 6-8 p.m.
  • Every year, Waypoint hosts its annual SleepOut event, which fundraises for the non-profit while also shedding light on the physical aspects of facing homelessness. This year, the event is planned to take place on March 25.


The Waypoint Young Adult Emergency Shelter is located at 298 Hanover St. serving young people ages 18-24. Open nightly, 6-9:30 p.m. For more information or to be added to the wait list for a bed call 603-518-4110.


  1. Tony Cox. (2011). Brain Maturity Extends Well Beyond Teen Years. Tell Me More (NPR).

 

About this Author

serenapugh

Serena Pugh

Serena Pugh is a creative writing intern at Kimball Jenkins currently living in Gilmanton NH. She spent last year attending The New School studying journalism and design and is now on a gap year planning to transfer.