Responding to the Urgent Needs of Children in our Community
At Horizons for Homeless Children, our commitment to supporting the most vulnerable families in our community remains steadfast, especially during the current migrant crisis in Massachusetts. As our state’s shelter system has reached its capacity, with 10,000 children 12 and under currently housed with their families in shelters and hotels, the need for our services has never been more acute.
In partnership with the Healey-Driscoll Administration, Neighborhood Villages and Cradles to Crayons, we are rising to meet this challenge. Working in coordination, the group is providing winter essentials like coats, hats, gloves, and educational materials throughout the month of December. This effort aligns with Horizons’ core belief that every child deserves to be warm, safe, and housed, with opportunities for learning and growth.
“Horizons for Homeless Children has worked directly with children experiencing the trauma of homelessness living in the shelter system for 35 years,” said Kate Barrand, President & CEO of Horizons for Homeless Children. “The emerging shelter crisis has been a natural place for us to bring our expertise to bear as we work to bring awareness to and alleviate trauma for the shelters’ youngest residents.”
With expertise in child development, the team at Horizons helped identify and curate the age-appropriate collection of multilingual books, school supplies, and play essentials as part of the distribution effort. Horizons also brought corporate partners in to help source goods and ensured that materials were in the languages most suitable for the specific children and families to whom they’d be distributed.
This initiative addresses an immediate need for warm weather items, but on an ongoing basis, Horizons Playspace program operates year-round reaching directly into the shelter system across the state. Through the Playspace program, Horizons provides nurturing, trauma-informed environments and play for young children experiencing homelessness in more than 50 locations across Massachusetts thanks to the time and energy of more than 500 volunteers.
Children can express themselves, build relationships, and experience the joys of childhood that are often lost in times of crisis. Horizons is opening an additional 17 Playspaces over two years, many of which will be in temporary motel shelters housing migrant families. These child-friendly rooms can also be safe space for early intervention providers and local school systems to offer further supports to children on site. Horizons has worked closely with the Department of Early Education and Care, other government agencies, and non-profit providers to identify and coordinate services at hotel locations where we have a Playspace program.
Horizons competency in early childhood trauma and education also informs the training of statewide volunteers through its Playspace program. High-quality training is essential in preparing volunteers for the meaningful, and sometimes challenging behaviors young children may exhibit during a shift.
“We’re seeing some children arrive in shelter having experienced very high levels of trauma and severe poverty,” said Tara Spalding, Chief of Advancement and Strategic Partnerships. “We’re responding by enhancing our training to prepare volunteers to understand potential causes and sharing techniques for how to respond. Our volunteers’ work is rewarding and needed now more than ever.”
As we face this unprecedented challenge, Horizons for Homeless Children remains dedicated to not only meeting immediate needs but also advocating for long-term solutions. We are committed to ensuring that every child, regardless of their living situation, has access to the education, care, and support they deserve.