“There are so many angry people, it’s just brutal. There are homeless people fighting homeless people for five dollars. There are people getting robbed. My friends are dying from ODs.” Cody Ferry, 21, Homeless in Manchester
Cody Ferry paints a frightening picture of life on the streets of Manchester, New Hampshire. What you may not know, is that the homeless problem in the Queen City isn’t limited to grownups. Child and Family Services of New Hampshire estimates that there are 300 homeless youth on the streets every night.
Kianni Hunt is a vibrant and ambitious young woman.
(Laughing) “I try!”
This 21-year-old is a student at Manchester Community College and is a proud mother of twin 14-month-old boys.
“Malachi and Gabriel. They’re my world, they’re my life,” says Kianni.
Kianni works two jobs to support them.
“I work at Red Robbin as a server and I bartend at Spare Time,” says Kianni.
Despite her hectic schedule, she also manages to volunteers at Child and Family Services of New Hampshire’s Youth Resource Center. The reason? The center served as her refuge when she was homeless in high school.
“My mother had a lot of mental illness problems and eventually she kicked us out,” says Kianni. “I decided that I’d be better off being somewhere else, being homeless versus living there.”
“The biggest fear for me as a young girl was, oh my God if I sleep on the streets tonight, you know, I would make sure I had some sort of knife or something on me. I’m not trying to sound crazy or anything, but because I am afraid of getting raped or kidnapped,” says Kianni.
Fortunately, she survived unharmed.
“I always ended up sleeping somewhere. Just because of, my friends, or whoever I knew, which was a blessing. I didn’t have to go through that,”
Program Director Carol Heald from Youth Resource Center shares an eye-opening statistic: “We have averaged that about 300 youth are homeless every night in Manchester.”
Driving through the city, chances are you won’t easily spot many – or any—young homeless people camping out.
“I think you know there were years when I didn’t see any driving through Manchester. You only see what you’re looking for,” says Heald.
That’s in part why the Youth Resource Center deploys a street outreach team – a group of volunteers who walk the city, searching for young people who may need help.
“Seeing these youth in the element and being able to be there for them when they feel like nobody else is,” says Brennan Connors, Street Outreach Team. She adds, “That can be directly on the streets, under the bridges, on the train tracks.”
“I’ve been homeless off and on for the last four years. It’s brutal,” says Cody.
Right now Cody says he’s couch-hopping, so he doesn’t have to sleep on the streets. CFS says it’s a common strategy for the young and homeless, but not an effective long-term solution.
Kianna and CFS both agree that Manchester needs an overnight shelter exclusively for young people. CFS serves 1,500 young people every year. There are some resources, including a group home and a series of host homes, but they’re limited and temporary.
This is just the beginning of the story. We are committed to investigating the youth homeless problem in Manchester and what can be done to help the invisible children of Manchester.