COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIP: A PARTNERSHIP THAT EMPHASIZES PLAY – YMCA AND STEPPING STONES, HELPING HOMELESS YOUTH AGES 12-25 BECOME HAPPY, SELF-SUFFICIENT ADULTS
Here’s a little info on one of our non-profit partners, Stepping Stones in Nashua. Here’s their organization’s story:
The Stepping Stones mission is to help homeless, unaccompanied youth ages 12-25 become happy, self-sufficient adults.
There are around 400 unaccompanied youths that are currently homeless in Nashua alone. They have no safe place to go, and many live in tents on the banks of the Nashua river. Lucky kids drift from one friend’s house to another, or are taken in by a family member from time to time. But when luck turns, they are on their own.
Many of these kids come from abusive homes, and have run away. Some are “throwaways”, where their families have kicked them out. Others still have aged out of the foster care system. They have nowhere to go, and no one to turn to for help. The adults in their lives have failed them, and trust does not come easy.
Homeless youths feel unsafe each and every night. Their few possessions may be stolen, drugs and alcohol are rampant, physical abuse, and sex trafficking are very real fears. These factors combined with their youth put them at an increased risk of mental illness, poor health, lacking education, becoming involved with criminal activity, or becoming a victim. These kids are desperate for a way out. They long for a safe place to go, and they want to be able to help themselves because that is the only person they have been able to consistently rely on in the past. These kids want to work with others, not have things done for them. They want to be part of their own solution.
The YMCA has made a family membership available to Stepping Stones. According to Kathy Farland, executive director: “The young people love going to the Y. It helps them immensely having some down time and to get some physical activity. Playing basketball is a big one. Burning off energy and play is great. I put an emphasis on PLAY. They almost never get to do that. Their lives are so stressful all the time.”
Twice a week the Stepping Stones program coordinator takes them to the Y. Kathy shared, “We haven’t been able to get them there as much as they want because we are down a staff person. As a drop in center, we open this option up to anyone who is here. We take them all.
We are tremendously grateful to the Y for reaching out and allowing us to do that. As a drop in center, we have different kids here everyday. To get an individual membership for each kid would be difficult. Coming in as a group under a family membership is great. Group exercise classes, using the cardio and strength equipment and swimming are all activities that have been popular! Some of the kids don’t have bathing suits, so we are working through that. Many thanks to the Y.”
To learn more about Stepping Stones and the important work they are doing, check their website: www.steppingstonesnh.org
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