Londonderry Middle School’s Student Council held its second annual Caring Kit Drive for the Homeless.
The students collected 130 kits containing basic necessities and other full-sized items for homeless youth, which they delivered to the Salvation Army McKenna House in Concord and presented to Child and Family Services of Manchester last week.
“Some of the kids might be the same age as you guys. If you can imagine being a 12-year-old and having a situation at home that makes it so you feel safer or better being away from your family and out of your house and trying to figure out how you’re going to support yourself and make it on your own, those are some of the kids that we’re working with,” Child and Family Services Program Director Erin Kelly told students when accepting the caring kits at the school. “The fact you guys are putting in your time and effort to coordinate this and do this drive helps young people just like you guys who might be in different living situations and be really struggling to get their basic needs met, or who don’t have a home to go home to in order to get their basic needs so they can start working on the other stuff, like school, jobs, family, all of those things that are going to help them accomplish their goals.”
Student Council Advisor Cyndi Hursh said the idea for the Caring Kit Drive was born out of last year’s Student Council, who “wanted to do something for local children and adults who were struggling and needed a little help and hope.”
The students created a list of basic necessity items, including snacks, water, underwear and personal hygiene products, and distributed it to students and staff in Ziploc bags.
The Student Council also worked to educate the school community about the needs of homeless youth in New Hampshire, visiting classes to explain the project and providing information through social media.
Kelly said some of the items the students collected will be distributed at their youth resource center, as well as on the street to youth who don’t yet feel comfortable going to the center.
“They might be giving out waters and granola bars and hygiene products to kids they see in the parks, on the street, under bridges, all the places young people who don’t have a place to call home might be hanging out,” she said.
The needs of homeless youth vary in different seasons, according to Kelly and her staff.
During the winter months, young people are in greatest need of warm winter clothing, like winter jackets, gloves and mittens. Kelly said when spring returns with warmer temperatures, many young people get pushed back out on the street, and those youth will be in need of sleeping bags, tents and access to basic care items and other necessities.
Homelessness looks different in New Hampshire than it might in other places, according to Kelly, who explained that of the approximately 750 youth they serve each year, many seek shelter where they can find it, moving from home to home.
Youth who are 18 or older must seek emergency shelter at an adult facility, which Kelly said they may not feel is appropriate or safe.
A long-term goal of Child and Family Services is to provide a youth emergency shelter for young people who are not comfortable staying at an adult shelter.
Additionally, Kelly and her staff are working to connect youth to businesses and professionals in the community who have the ability to provide their youth with life and job training skills.
“There are a lot of little things people take for granted that need to be done to become a productive member of the community,” said Kelly, whose staff help homeless youth obtain identification and other vital documents when seeking employment, or use the address of their resource center as their mailing address.
“I think this is a great cause and something we need to bring more attention to,” Student Council President Morgan Dow said.
“It surprised me how many people our age are homeless,” Vice President Chris Guarino said. “I plan to continue supporting them.”
Caption: Members of the Londonderry Middle School Student Council display the more than 100 basic necessity kits they collected for donation to the Salvation Army McKenna House of Concord and to Child and Family Services in Manchester for homeless youth. Photo by Chris Paul