Stories of Hope
As a teacher, Meital works with infants who are experiencing the trauma, stress and inconsistencies of homelessness. Sometimes they arrive feeling anxious and nervous. They live in buildings with a lot of unknown faces, strict rules and very little space to play, which can be really difficult and scary. Parents want what’s best for their child but they are also dealing with the uncertainty of living in shelter. Making school the best possible place for them, somewhere they feel safe, loved and happy is the teachers’ highest priority.
Meital shared her experience working with a four month old in her class who cried the whole day. His body was rigid and stiff, an indication that he could feel his mother’s stress. Meital worked with a mental health consultant from Horizons’ partner Jewish Families and Children’s service who assessed him and gave the teaching team tips and ideas to meet his needs. The goal was to help him feel comfortable and safe, all while keeping his mother connected and engaged in the process. That little boy thrived with the new plan in place; slowly he began to loosen up, smile and participate in activities. Before long, he’d adjusted so well that he would dance when he came in the room every morning.
“The regularity of the classroom gave him the foundation to develop his language, his physical skills and his trust in the loving people around him,” Meital shared. He’s since moved on from the infant classroom but his progress continues. Now when he comes to visit his old classroom, he walks in with no hesitation, gives hugs, then walks over to an activity and joins!”
As a Family Advocate, Miraidis believes the best way to help the children in the long term is to support their parents. She and her team do this by first building a relationship and then working with parents in the areas of family stability, wellbeing, mental health, education, career and personal finance. Together, they develop a plan that includes setting goals, working to accomplish those goals and celebrating them when they’re achieved.
We expect college students to live in dorms, not homeless shelters. But that’s not the experience of every student. Miraidis recently worked with a mom who was working full time, pursuing her Master’s degree but couldn’t make ends meet and ended up in shelter. When she came to Horizons, her son was 3 years old. Her husband had left her with all their family’s debt. A shelter was the only option she had and it offered too little secure space for her son and she couldn’t find a quiet place to do homework. Working together, the goals for mom became clear: she needed an apartment she could afford and a path to graduation. Miraidis helped her organize her thoughts, offering assistance and encouragement along the way. With a lot of work, mom was able to find an apartment and graduate in May with a Master’s Degree in Psychology. With Miraidis’ help during that crucial time, mom had the extra support she needed to propel herself and her son toward a better life.
“The journey to where she needed to go wasn’t easy. One day she called me crying. She shared a very difficult time she was going through. In that moment I realized that I mattered to her – my role had made me someone she relied on. The role we play as FAs matters deeply to the parents we support.”