City Matters: Making Adulthood Easier at Nashua Children’s Home | City questions
When we see the word homeless, it usually refers to people who lack four walls and a roof to sleep in at night.
But the word home means more than a place, especially to young adults.
It means a simmered meal of motherly love. That means a few dollars when trying to budget for minimum wage. It means an encouraging pep talk, a supportive rebuke, a stabilizing routine.
Few young adults would thrive without such home support, despite the legal seal of adulthood bestowed on the 18th birthday.
This is the idea behind the Transitional Living Program, an adult accessible apartment building located on the grounds of Nashua Children’s Home, one of the largest group homes for foster children in the world. ‘State.
The program offers apartment living to seven newly created adults, many of whom were foster children who left the Nashua Children’s Home.
It’s the best thing to go home after college.
Rent starts at $ 100 per month and tops out at $ 300. Rules are what every adult / child expects when living with mom and dad: keep a job, no drugs, no alcohol, no violence, no overnight guests.
“I felt safe here,” said Emilly Matos, who spent three years in the Amherst Street building.
Matos needed help three years ago. His father was deceased and his mother was living in Brazil when Matos left his older brother’s house due to personality differences.
She was 17, a high school student. She was planning to live in her car and use her gym membership to take showers, when a guidance counselor directed her to the children’s home. When she was 18, she landed in a two bedroom apartment.
She learned to share with a roommate, developed money management skills and a work ethic. And she was able to juggle work and school. She takes business courses at Nashua Community College and is an assistant manager at a J. Crew store.
Nashua Children’s Home opened the Transitional Living Program in the mid-2000s. It used $ 755,000 in funding from the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to purchase and renovate the old apartment building.
Director David Villiotti said the loan, managed through the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority, is due in two years, but it will likely be able to extend it for another 20 years. The biggest operational cost is the program director.
He said the Transition Living program generates the most interest when it comes to Rotary or church clubs. How many parents, he asks the crowd, have 18 or 19 year olds who could live on their own. This is the challenge facing her adopted children.
“You talk about that, they’re happy to give,” he said.
Other organizations have similar programs. The Manchester-based Waypoint runs similar programs in Manchester, Concord and Dover, according to its website.
Young adults are not entirely alone. Lea Reilly holds the title of Director of Transitional Living, but Transitional Mom could be a better description.
She has an office in the building but only works weekdays. Like an on-site property manager, she tries to enforce the rules by tenants.
She had to evict some tenants for non-compliance with the rules or persistent non-payment of rent.
But in general, she speaks to young people and encourages them to stay on track.
“I believe in 100% independence for young people. They must have a job, ”Reilly said.
As they approach 21, they need to focus on their independence. Reilly will begin to apply another maternal skill – the nagging.
“Like their mother, I will start to infringe,” she said. “There are only a handful of rules here, but the fact that I’m in their life, it becomes a rule.”
Hence the departure of Matos for his own place.
“Lea is a really cool person. It’s always good to have him around, ”said Aaron Ghee, 18, who has lived there for about a month.
Reilly helps him manage his money and drives him to the bank, he said.
Ghee lived in the children’s home for 4.5 years and entered the transitional housing program at the age of 18.
“To be honest, I felt a bit relieved. I didn’t like being there, ”he said of the children’s home. Now he can work (full time at a local pizzeria), visit family and see friends. Due to the restrictions related to the pandemic, he could not do so at the children’s home, he said.
He said the low rent saves him money. He plans to move to Florida, live with his grandfather, and attend community college to become an electrician.
Ghee thinks he could have survived on his own.
“But it’s still good,” he said, “to have a little help anyway.”