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New group home for LGBTQ+ youth opens in Keene

Little Wanderers Vice President of Community Services Matthew McCall is helping open a LGBTQ+ youth community home in Keene this week, which aims to support up to eight residents in family reunification and independent living, according to their news release.
Hannah Schroeder
/
Keene Sentinel
Little Wanderers Vice President of Community Services Matthew McCall is helping open a LGBTQ+ youth community home in Keene this week, which aims to support up to eight residents in family reunification and independent living, according to their news release.

This story was originally produced by the Keene Sentinel. NHPR is republishing it in partnership with the Granite State News Collaborative.

Residents of New Hampshire’s first group home dedicated to LGBTQ+ youth are moving in this week, according to the organization running it.

The Unity House in Keene is the first of its kind in the state, The Home for Little Wanderers, a Boston-based nonprofit, said in a news release.

The group home was originally slated to open in September 2023, as The Sentinel previously reported. The delay was due to construction, as the property was converted from commercial to residential, said Matthew McCall, vice president of community relations for the organization.

“A lot of the infrastructure stuff we needed had been removed,” he said. “For example, there wasn’t a kitchen anymore, and we needed to get specialty contractors for that kind of work.”

The Unity House will provide a safe and supportive living environment for up to eight youths, ages 12 to 19, who identify as LGBTQ+ and are in the custody of the New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth and Families, per the news release.

The group home will operate on a community-based model, with 18 staff members helping prepare residents for reunification with their families, transitioning to foster care or preparing for independent living, according to the news release.

McCall said Unity is different from other group homes in the state because staff members will provide clinical treatment specific for LGBTQ+ populations, such as gender-affirming cognitive behavioral therapy.

“These kids, they may have gone through abuse and neglect, and that may or may not have been related to their gender identity or sexual orientation,” he said. “Our clinical staff will have lived experience or have experience working with LGBTQ+ populations.”

The release says the state has seen high rates of discrimination and violence toward LGBTQ+ youth in recent years. Fewer than 40% of LGBTQ young people nationally found their home to be affirming in 2023, according to a survey from The Trevor Project on LGBTQ+ youth mental health.

Meanwhile, 49% of LGBTQ+ youth in the state reported experiencing at least one form of discrimination at school, according to a 2021 school climate survey of LGBTQ+ youth in New Hampshire from GLSEN.

Unity House residents will attend area schools and have access to opportunities for community-building, such as participating in service projects, sports and social groups.

The home receives funding from the state, which will pay the organization roughly $480 per resident, per day spent in the home, according to McCall.

One of the main reasons The Home sought out Keene as a location for the group home was because of the community.

“As much as the clinical stuff is vital and important for their recovery, being seen and feeling a part of the community means so much to them,” McCall said. “Keene has been incredibly welcoming and supportive. Keene Pride has been phenomenal with us.”

The Unity House welcomes members of the community to provide additional support for residents. This not only includes donations to The Home, but programming and mentorship for youths staying at Unity House. Those interested can reach Unity House staff at unityhousegetinvolved@thehome.org.

These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visitcollaborativenh.org. 

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