Crisis Support For Homeless Families
The COVID-19 crisis has changed the way we live our lives. As you can imagine, families experiencing homelessness had few resources and no cushion to withstand the challenges of the last few months and have been impacted significantly. In addition to the financial challenges, the quarantine has taken an emotional toll, in some cases with families restricted to one 8X10 room for the past several months. Horizons has adapted to fill the gaps in innovative ways to provide emotional support and material resources with the support of generous donors like you.
Currently, Horizons for Homeless Children is responding to the needs of families with four crucial areas of support: supplies, activities, information and connection.
- At the onset of the crisis, families needed physical supplies. Horizons provided food, diapers, books and gift cards with a value of more than $20,000 to families. Those gift cards helped families purchase food, diapers and other necessities that many could no longer afford when they couldn’t go to work. Tablets loaded with educational programming for kids were purchased and distributed to help bridge the digital divide and provide a connection between our children and their teachers and volunteers. With our Playspaces in shelters throughout the state closed, we assembled and distributed hundreds of Playspace activity kits, filled with arts and crafts supplies and books.
- With the closure of the early education centers and the suspension of the Playspace program, children were missing out on the education and play activities so critical to their healthy development. Our teachers developed a robust and engaging online curriculum, Playspace staff created videos with activities for kids living in shelter and “Playspace in your Space” was born – live, interactive Zoom sessions with PAL volunteers and staff with play as the focus.
- Information is critical to maintaining a sense of security, and Family Advocates stayed connected to our families to share vetted, accessible resources for nutritional support, mental health support and help with paying bills. Our Playspace team advised shelters throughout the state on how to support families now living in shelter around the clock.
- Human connection is critical to building trust with our families. Family Advocates serve as coach and confidante, working with families to build skills and develop resiliency toward self-sufficiency. Many of our families experienced job loss and setbacks as a result of the pandemic, and Family Advocates helped them stay focused on their goals and not get discouraged. For children, Horizons teachers maintained one-on-one interactions with children via Zoom, PALs created beautiful cards and sent video greetings, songs and messages to reinforce the bonds created in Playspace sessions. Connection continued internally at Horizons too, with leadership’s commitment to avoid short term measures that would undermine the team and enhanced communications and team-building as remote work blossomed.
With classrooms reopening early in July, we’re ready to 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 ensure 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 can return to school safely. Adapting to this “new normal” comes with new expenses and we need your help to sustain our efforts.
All of us are facing the stresses and uncertainty of adjusting to these challenging times, but none more than families living in shelter. They need us now, more than ever.