The service light is on in Kathy’s car. Under normal circumstances, this problem would only affect Kathy, but unfortunately this small maintenance issue had some surprising consequences for one of our youth. After months of learning to drive with Kathy’s help, Addy was excited to go to the DMV for her road test, but with Kathy’s light on, she could not hope to pass (DMV’s are picky about that sort of thing!). Now, Addy has to postpone the test until Kathy’s car is out of the shop.
Of course, the real problem isn’t the DMV or the light, and it certainly isn’t Kathy or Addy, either.The real problem is that to help put Addy and other youth like her on the road to success, Stepping Stones must rely on Kathy’s own personal vehicle for transportation.
Most of the youth at Stepping Stones do not own a vehicle or even have a license, which further complicates their ability to complete their goals. Because driving is such an important part of delivering life-changing outcomes to the youth in need, volunteers and staff take them to appointments, interviews, medical providers, and the food pantry. On convenient occasions, rides to scheduled events are planned ahead of time, but more often the young people come in with a need that can be best addressed by taking them somewhere right then and there. This flexibility ensures that they maintain their momentum for positive change and fulfills the promise of the drop-in center model.
The first blog in this Roadblocks series detailed the many ways in which homeless youth without transportation face even steeper hurdles in obtaining housing and employment. Since that post, Stepping Stones has driven youth as far as Keene and Concord, and shuttled them all around Nashua more times than can be counted. Since then, more youth have come to Stepping Stones seeking help, and we also have added a lot of new services that require transportation to and from Stepping Stones, such as trips to the food pantry, H.E.A.L. meetings, and a full calendar of enrichment programs that take place all over the state.
With all of this driving, it is no wonder Kathy’s service light came on! Maybe it’s a sign: after all, a service light is just a small nudge telling the driver to get a little help. It turns out, Kathy’s service light was the final push we needed to recognize that Stepping Stones needs a vehicle that can be specifically designated for the purpose of driving youth. Something for staff and volunteers to share to deliver on-demand service to youth needing rides, driver’s instruction, or help moving out of homelessness. Ideally, Stepping Stones will find a vehicle large enough to transport up to six youth at a time.
A larger vehicle dedicated solely to transporting the youth will allow us to offer more consistent and frequent service without putting unnecessary mileage on staff and volunteer vehicles. A more spacious ride means more youth attending programs, more efficient move-ins (Rebecca’s fully-loaded jeep had to take two trips to Stella’s new apartment just to get her in), and easier trips to the NH Food Bank. Regardless of size, a vehicle that lives at Stepping Stones will allow us to help youth even outside drop-in center hours, when certain volunteers have offered to provide transportation and even driving instruction on a more convenient schedule.
With all of this in mind, Stepping Stones is raising funds to purchase a Stepping Stones vehicle. The wonderful people at Grappone have already partnered with us and are eager to help find a vehicle that will address our youth’s needs. They’ve even been so gracious as to donate up to $1,000 in match funds and sell us the vehicle at cost! For Giving Tuesday this year, Stepping Stones is asking our supporters to help us raise enough money to cover the cost of this very important purchase. Stay tuned for Stepping Stones’ Road to Success campaign so you can find out how you can help Stepping Stones youth put homelessness in their rear-view mirror.