New street outreach program seeks Concord’s homeless youth

  • Jessica Goff (left) and Lindsay Fuller head down North State Street. Waypoint will be holding its annual SleepOut event on March 25 in remote locations.

  • Jessica Goff (left) and Lindsay Fuller head down Pleasant Street in Concord with their Waypoint backpacks on their daily walk around the Concord area recently. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Jessica Goff (right) and Lindsay Fuller head down North State Street in Concord with their Waypoint backpacks on their daily walk around the Concord area recently. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Jessica Goff (left) and Lindsay Fuller head down Centre Street in Concord with their Waypoint backpacks on their daily walk around the Concord area recently. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Jessica Goff (right) and Lindsay Fuller head down North State Street in Concord with their Waypoint backpacks on their daily walk around the Concord area recently. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Jessica Goff (right) and Lindsay Fuller head down Main Street in Concord with their Waypoint backpacks on their daily walk around the Concord area recently. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 3/22/2022 5:24:11 PM

For Lindsay Fuller and Jessica Goff, each day of outreach to young homeless people in Concord looks different. To be prepared for hours of searching through trees for hidden tents or for handing out business cards at the library, the two women set out each morning carrying backpacks stuffed with things the youth they meet might need, from snacks and water bottles to bandages and the overdose-reversing drug Narcan.

Goff and Fuller are outreach specialists and case managers for Waypoint New Hampshire’s new program in Concord, part of the organization’s statewide initiative to tackle youth homelessness. Beginning in fall 2021, they began hitting the streets to reach people between the ages of 18 and 23, who have specific needs that differ from older homeless adults.

“We try to reach young people before they associate themselves with being homeless,” Fuller said. “It’s around three or four months before they start identifying themselves as part of that group. And they kind of lose a little bit of hope.”

Any young person needs a little extra help navigating the adult world, and homelessness compounds the complexity of tasks like applying for jobs or benefits. Just writing a resume can feel impossible without a fixed address, phone or form of identification.

“Right now we’re kind of a pilot program,” Goff said. “There was word that there was a lot of need in Concord, and a lot of young people.”

Fuller and Goff visit encampments where homeless people live all around the Concord area, often accompanied by outreach staff from the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness, Riverbend Community Mental Health, the New Hampshire Harm Reduction Coalition, the Community Action Program of Belknap-Merrimack Counties and Easterseals New Hampshire.

As larger encampments are disrupted, scattering people further into wooded areas and out of sight, it has become more difficult to deliver services. It also makes the problem of homelessness less visible to the average Concord resident.

“Often it takes 20 minutes of trudging to find a person,” Goff said. “We know that there have been homeless encampment sweeps, so people try to hide, and in many ways, those sweeps end up making it harder to find people and making our job harder.”

The Waypoint outreach workers help young people navigate a complex network of resources, from government benefits to mental health services to substance abuse treatment. Showing up with a familiar face from an existing organization ensures a “warm hand-off” to different services, and helps build trust with young adults who have good reasons to be wary of strangers.

“A lot of people, their trust has been betrayed a lot of times. Often they have a strong distrust of systems,” Goff said.

Fuller and Goff said that many of the youth experienced abuse or neglect or had involvement with the Department of Youth, Children and Families as kids. All have experienced some form of trauma in their lives, sometimes including abusive relationships.

Concord’s lack of affordable housing is the main reason why homelessness is a pressing issue for young people. More recently, even those who receive Section 8 vouchers are unable to find apartments with rent low enough to qualify – and risk losing their vouchers if the housing search takes too long.

Soon, Waypoint will open a drop-in resource center for youth on 103 N. State St., not far from the Homeless Resource Center run by the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness. With showers, laundry, computers and access to case management services, young people will have a dedicated place to pick up some food or clothing as well as get help finding housing or jobs.

To raise money for programs targeting homeless youth, Waypoint is hosting a SleepOut fundraiser on March 25. To participate, people will pitch a tent in their own backyards or other available outdoor space on Friday night.

Waypoint estimates that about 15,000 young adults and adolescents will experience homelessness in New Hampshire this year. In addition to raising funds the SleepOut is meant to raise awareness about homelessness and build empathy for those living through it.

“I think there’s a misconception that sleeping outside for one night gives you an idea of what it’s really like,” Goff said. However, the average participant won’t have to worry about having the police called on them for camping in a backyard.

Waypoint’s outreach services are low-barrier, meaning that the people Fuller and Goff encounter don’t need to be sober to get help. The outreach workers meet young people where they are – both physically and in terms of willingness to take advantage of available resources.

Fuller previously worked with people struggling with substance abuse issues in Massachusetts. “I’m able to make more of a difference in this role, rather than helping people get to the next treatment center,” she said. “Substance abuse is sometimes a symptom of being homeless.”

Over a recent March weekend, Concord saw eight overdoses, one of which was fatal. Fuller and Goff also help the young people they meet to process those emotions. They try to grant the youth they encounter agency and dignity, calling out “is anyone home?” before walking into an outdoor camp.

“We as a society are like, ‘don’t make eye contact.’ So that itself is super dehumanizing for people. So even to be like, ‘Hey, I see you, you want a snack?’ ” Goff said. “That can be powerful, even if we don’t think it would be.”


Cassidy Jensen bio photo

Cassidy Jensen has been a reporter at the Monitor, covering the city of Concord and criminal justice, since July 2021. Previously, she was a fellow at the Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia University, where she earned a master's degree. Her work has been published in Documented, THE CITY, Washington City Paper and Street Sense Media. When she's not at City Council meetings, you can find her hiking in the White Mountains.



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