Boston Herald

Programs help Boston’s homeless children through summer

Programs help Boston’s homeless children through summer

7/21/2019 – Universal pre-K has been a gift to many Boston families. But for homeless and poor families, the end of the school year can be a burden that poses a difficult hardship.

“Most of us think of summertime as great. We’re out of school. We’re going to go to the beach. We’re on vacation,” said Joanna Berube, West Regional Playspace program director for Horizons for Homeless Children.

“But for kids, school is a safe place for them,” Berube said. “They know the routine. They’re going to have breakfast. They’re going to have lunch. They’re going to have the same schedule. They’re going to have the same friends and the same caregivers all day long. It really becomes a place of security for them, especially when they’re experiencing homelessness. When kids lose that consistency with school, it can be really hard. It’s just another disruption.”

Itzamarie Torres knows all too well. The 23-year-old single mom was pregnant and living in a shelter with her toddler son. It was a scary time, but she soon found housing, got a job, moved into an apartment and is now earning her GED at Roxbury Community College.

She’s grateful for Horizons for Homeless Children, a nonprofit that runs three year-round early education centers in Roxbury, Dorchester and Jamaica Plain, and the stability it gives to her sons, Ayden, 4, and Adrian, 2.

“It’s wonderful. As a single mom, it’s very helpful,” said Torres, who is happy the center is open in the summer. “I wouldn’t be able to work or go to school or do the things that I am doing now to further myself because I wouldn’t have anybody to watch them.”

More than 18,000 children in Massachusetts are homeless, Berube said — enough to fill TD Garden. The number continues to rise as the cost of housing increases and government support decreases. One in 24 kids under 6 are homeless.

“If you think about your classrooms or your churches or your community groups, it’s significant and it’s everywhere,” Berube said.

Homeless kids often experience high levels of stress and anxiety, said Sheila O’Neil, executive director of Horizons for Homeless Children.

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