“I want to go to school!” This is what Tamara hears every day from her 2-year-old, Marisa, a firecracker who already knows her colors. “Not today,” Tamara tells her. This has been a recurring conversation since Horizons suspended in-person operations at our Early Education Centers in March. COVID-19 has been tough for all of us. But for Tamara—who is immunocompromised and parenting an energetic toddler in one room at a homeless shelter—it’s been especially challenging.
Supporters have stepped up, helping us pivot quickly to meet the needs of families like Tamara’s. When her employer shut down, an unfortunate reality for many of our families, she was relieved to receive gift cards, groceries and baby care items from Horizons. We also provided a tablet, preloaded with educational software, for bright, inquisitive Marisa.
Perhaps most importantly, Tamara’s family advocate, Klara, has stayed in close contact by phone and text to share trustworthy resources for housing, food, and financial assistance. “Klara’s been the person we’ve relied on most,” says Tamara. Acting as a support system and confidant, she also connects Tamara with mental health resources. “I don’t know what I would do without Horizons. They’ve helped us in so many ways.”
At Horizons for Homeless Children, we’re eagerly looking ahead to early July when our centers will reopen and our teachers and family advocates can once again provide the critical, and familiar, services upon which our families rely. We’ll get back to providing breakfast, snacks and a hot lunch each day, something our children desperately missed. Classroom routines will return to a consistent pattern, so comforting to children experiencing trauma. Our experts have seen the toll this crisis has had on the youngest of those living in shelter, and we’ll be ensuring children returning to our centers receive mental health services, a hallmark of our program. In addition, there will be new health and safety protocols in place, ensuring that young students like Marisa can return to school safely. Our community’s support will go a long way in securing the supplies we need to operate in the “new normal” and Horizons has been diligently planning how education centers will operate with our students and teachers safety as the top priority.