Years ago, I worked at Waypoint (Child & Family Services) with young people in the runaway and homeless youth programs. I met youth who were escaping abuse, or parental alcohol and drug use, or were not welcome in their parents’ homes due to sexual or gender identity. Wonderful, talented young people, who – without supportive community and caring adults – are at a devastatingly increased risk for mental health and substance use disorders, repeated trauma and victimization, like trafficking, and poor health outcomes.
It is estimated that 15,000 youth in New Hampshire this year will experience homelessness and 70% of them will not return home.
You can help. SleepOut.
Pause for a moment and picture where your children sleep. Where do the young people you know live and thrive? What would that look like if they were unhoused and alone? Picture them in the woods or in a doorway, staying awake all night because it might be safer to nap during the day. Think about where they might take a shower, keep their few possessions safe, get a drink of water, and go to the bathroom. Think about them not having access to a toothbrush or toilet paper.
It was the lack of access to safe bathrooms and water that always got to me the most. Think about all of the places that you can fill your water bottle over the course of the day, at home, at work, or at school. Think about the clean safe bathrooms you use. The hygiene products that you have available to you. Think about why there are customers only signs on bathroom doors.
I learned from young people the struggle of having nowhere safe to sleep, to spend the day trying to find a place to spend the night, to find a tampon, and to get a drink of water.
SleepOut raises community consciousness for a problem that deserves the attention of all residents in the Granite State, the issue of homelessness amongst NH youth. Participation culminates on March 25th, when participants spend a night out in the cold in solidarity with youth enduring homelessness in New Hampshire to speak up and advocate for our youth who need us to see them.
Alcohol and other drug use and living unhoused are often intricately entwined and that is why The Partnership is spreading the word about the Waypoint Sleep Out. Waypoint works to prevent homelessness in New Hampshire with services for youth, ages 12 -24, including street outreach, rapid rehousing, and the Runaway and Homeless Youth Program. If you under 18 and are couch surfing or lack a consistent place to sleep, Waypoint’s Runaway and Homeless Youth Program (RHYP) can help. You have the freedom to access these services when you choose, and to work with staff to design your own support plan. Through RHYP, you have access to an outreach social worker and the choice to stay in a safe, emergency bed away away from the streets. Waypoint will help you through any crisis you may face, and will work to prevent harm. You’ll also have access to supportive counseling, positive recreational activities, independent living skill building, and help to reunify with family. RHYP staff works collaboratively with parents or legal guardians, in a judgment-free, strengths-based way, in order to achieve safe, stable housing for you, and a path to self-sufficiency. Services may be provided at school or in conjunction with school staff if in your best interest. Services are always free of charge.
In addition to supporting Waypoint’s critical programming, we can each support young people in NH. We can support other youth and family organizations, volunteer and participate in community events that support our young people and families, be good neighbors by reaching out to support youth and families. We each have a role in preventing more adverse events in youth’s lives by getting involved, mentoring youth, listening to youth, and being aware of the signs that a young person may be in trouble, experiencing homelessness or being exploited.
Parenting is the hardest job out there. It takes a village. Our community partners are here to support parents and families across the ages. If you are struggling with your preteen or teen, there is support. Safe, supportive, non-judgemental. And we each can play an important role in building and maintaining a village for those who may not have one.
If you or someone you know is experiencing homelessness, here are some additional resources:
- NH Coalition to End Homelessness
- Stepping Stones
- Families in Transition
- Friends Program
- Family Support Warmline
- Staying Connected with Your Teen
- Family Resource Centers (provides support around food and housing, education, and a place to connect)
- National Support (1800runaway)
Make a choice for the thousands of young people in New Hampshire that are being devastated by homelessness. Just one night. SleepOut. Register or donate today.
Guest Author: Amy Daniels, MSW