Waypoint says it wants to open a homeless shelter for youth in Manchester – The Union Leader

The social services organization Waypoint is taking steps to open a homeless shelter in Manchester geared toward young adults, the organization said last week.

Waypoint is scouting locations in the city for a shelter, said Erin Kelly, Waypoint director of homeless, youth and young adult services. She said it will start with eight to 10 beds but will expand based on the need.

Waypoint hopes to have a location solidified and fit-up work underway by years end, she said.

Kelly said young people dont feel safe at traditional homeless shelters and will sleep in cars or a tent rather than a traditional shelter. She said after three or four months in a regular homeless shelter, young people start to lose focus and hope.

They start to assimilate into the population, which we dont want to see happen, Kelly said.

Waypoint currently operates a drop-in center for homeless youth in Manchester, so it makes sense to open the shelter in the states largest city, Kelly said. Every other New England state has at least one shelter dedicated to youth, she said.

Estimates say more than 700 youth aged 13 to 25 experience homelessness each year in Manchester, Waypoint said. Last year, the organization provided services to 110 youth. Of those, 31 were sleeping outside, in their vehicles or other spaces not meant for human habitation.

In an email, Mayor Joyce Craig said Waypoint is a strong partner in the citys fight against homelessness and said she supports its efforts to consolidate its existing services to better serve Manchester youth.

Last week, a Union Leader reporter spoke to two young people at the Waypoint drop-in center.

They had lived in an SUV for most of 2019 and into early 2020 before landing an apartment. They have fallen behind on their rent and face eviction; both said they dont like their apartment and want to leave.

The man, who is 23 and did not want his name published, said he wont live in the shelters, citing bed bugs, theft and violence.

It would be different if Waypoint owns it because I trust Waypoint, said his companion, Cassandra Burke, who is 24.

Last year, the states largest city struggled with a homeless population that grew more visible as shelters reduced their capacity in the face of the coronavirus pandemic and homeless people started camping in conspicuous locations.

The visibility subsided following a highly publicized clearance of a downtown homeless camp and the temporary opening of an overflow shelter for the winter months. Its unclear if the visibility will grow with the return of warmer weather and the move by Families in Transition to close the winter overflow shelter at the end of this month.

Kelly said Waypoint will consider any building in Manchester, but its important to be good neighbors.

The ongoing cost of a shelter would likely exceed $200,000 a year, and would come from a variety of sources, including donations and fundraisers such as Waypoints SleepOut 2021, which is scheduled for Friday.

Waypoint is also in the process of opening drop-in centers for youth in Concord and Rochester.

Kelly said a shelter would provide services based on Positive Youth Development, an evidence-based approach used across the country at youth shelters.

Waypoint would not let anyone under 18 stay in its shelter, Kelly said. It sends them to emergency foster homes or organizations such as Webster House. Waypoint workers said they have seen youth as young as 12 and 13 in the drop-in center.

Monique Michon, a Waypoint outreach case manager, attributed youth homelessness to trauma and a failure of the existing social service system. Shes also seen cases where parents try to prostitute their children, she said.

Kelly said parents kick children out of the home for drug use, their sexual orientation or gender identification issues.

Young people dont want to be homeless, Kelly said. Young people dont leave home because they dont like moms rules.

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Waypoint says it wants to open a homeless shelter for youth in Manchester - The Union Leader

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