CLAREMONT — Homeless youth in Sullivan County will have another invaluable resource to find stability, with the official opening of the Oasis Teen Shelter and Support Center set for Monday.
Area residents got to take their first tour on Friday inside the new Oasis Teen Shelter at 169 Main St., a residential transition program for homeless and runaway youth between ages 16 to 21. The newly-renovated first floor consists of six fully-furnished bedrooms and common areas for cooking, laundry, dining, and socializing. There is also a playroom for infants and children, as many prospective residents are anticipated to be parents.
Shea Harris, the shelter manager, took visitors into one of the bedrooms. Each room is individually designed, according to Harris. The room shown had a double-bed, whereas another room might hold a single. Each room has a dresser and will come already stocked with toiletries, socks and linen for the resident.
“Anything to make them feel comfortable, we have,” Harris said.
Oasis is the newest resource created by the Claremont Learning Partnership to teens and teen parents struggling with living instability. The Learning Partnership, a local nonprofit, also operates the One-4-All Center, which assists teen parents while they continue -education, by providing daycare, early childhood education, parenting and mentoring classes, access to free clothing and school supplies and referrals to other community resources.
Housing and family instability is a major issue in Sullivan County, particularly in Claremont and Newport, the county’s two largest communities.
According to Claremont school officials, about 10 percent of city students lack permanent housing, which is significantly above the state average of 4 percent.
Oasis’s program aims to provide teens with stability and support toward being able to live independently, Harris said. During the 90-day residency, Oasis case managers will help the residents with apartment searches, employment searches and additional resource allocations.
Educational support is another essential scope of the Learning Partnership, as many of the teens serviced lack a high-school diploma or equivalency. The One-4-All preschool was designed in part to care for the children of teen parents so those parents could attend to completing their high school education or equivalency program.
The Learning Partnership is currently pursuing grant funding to launch a charter school for grades 9-12, which will also operate at 169 Main St. and provide another complementary resource for teens at Oasis.
Oasis and One-4-All Director Cathy Pellerin said they are currently resubmitting their grant application to fund the school. Pending the funding award, the charter school could open as soon as September 2022.
“It’s going to fill that need, as right now we don’t have anywhere to send these kids,” Pellerin said.
One-4-All previously partnered with the Claremont School District to provide access to educational needs, but the district discontinued its funding this year due to budget cuts.
Pellerin acknowledged that finding housing in 2021 is considerably more difficult than it was in 2018, when the Learning Partnership began seeking grant funding for Oasis.
“Finding housing is going to be a challenge,” Pellerin said. “So one of our jobs will be doing outreach to landlords in the area.”
Oasis will also utilize a grant through the New Hampshire Rapid Rehousing Program, which enables a non-profit agency to guarantee rent to landlords for a tenant for a 2-year period.
“Our resident would sign the lease, but our program would guarantee the rent,” Pellerin explained.
Harris said that each resident will be responsible to do house chores and have curfews. Residents are not allowed to bring in guests, though residents may live at Oasis with their partner.
Among the attendees at Oasis’s open house were Claremont City Councilor Dale Girard, Newport Police Chief Brent Wilmot, and Claremont Police Chief Mark Chase.
“This is a good resource,” Chase said. “We need more outreach tools for young people. If this helps someone get through that time, that’s great. I’ve seen several iterations of this type of program and this has my full support.”
“Resources like this are so very important,” Wilmot said. “Having these connections and a place where we can send young people in need is so vital, especially with everything we are dealing with as a society.”