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How Trauma Informed Care is helping homeless families

Written by admin on . Posted in Awareness, Domestic Violence, Education, Families, Mental Health, Policy Advocacy, Poverty, Women, Youth

The National Coalition for the Homeless recently hosted a Congressional briefing on Trauma Informed Care (TIC) and homeless families. Trauma Informed Care is an important topic that is rapidly gaining notability due to its capacity to teach practitioners how to engage with individuals who have experienced trauma without the use of damaging punitive or paternalistic attitudes.

Representative Alcee L. Hastings of the 20th District of Florida, co-chair of the Congressional Homelessness Caucus, began the briefing with opening remarks. He was then followed by a panel of TIC experts, including Cheryl Sharp, the senior advisor for trauma informed services at the National Council for Behavioral Health, Jennifer Pearlman, the coordinator for trauma informed care for the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, Leah Harris, the TIC specialist for the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, and Barbara Anderson, the director of Haven House Services. The panel was moderated by Carmela DeCandia, the director for child and family initiatives from the Center on Social Innovation. Each speaker brought a complimentary perspective from a different facet of homeless and mental health services, as they informed the audience on their knowledge and experience with trauma informed care.

Each panelist explained that trauma informed care serves as an organizational strategy to help social service agencies gain the awareness, knowledge, and skills to better support individuals on their pathway to recovery. This approach prompts service providers to respond to the recipient’s psychological and emotional needs rather than just provide resources. It necessitates that service providers approach recipients from a perspective of empathy that rejects ideologies of individual blame for issues created by much larger forces. This ideology is pertinent in light of the findings of the SHIFT study that showed, 93% of homeless mothers had a history of trauma, 79% experienced trauma as children, 81% experience multiple traumatic events, and 36% had a lifetime history of post-traumatic stress disorder. The SHIFT study also provides valuable insights on the impact of public policy on the creation of homelessness and poverty.

With the severe lack of affordable housing in this country, only one out of four low-income families that are eligible for federal rental assistance will receive it. Meanwhile, the minimum wage is not sufficient enough to cover the cost of housing in many cities. Without stable housing, traumatic vulnerability occurs, which can result in assault, mental and physical health issues, and substance abuse. More than half of homeless children are under the age of 6, which is a critical time for brain development and resilience. Cheryl Sharp warned that when children do not know if they are safe it impedes upon their development. Traumatized caregivers are more likely to pass adverse experiences onto children, and are less emotionally and physically available. This is compounded on the stressors of being homeless. Even sheltered families can experience trauma because of danger in these environments, instability, and a lack of mental health knowledge among caregivers. This trauma furthers the barrier to successful re-housing. We must demand systemic change to increase our nation’s affordable housing stock, and make TIC funding available in existing shelters and service organizations to allow homeless families pathways to stability and healing. Barbara Anderson stated that ending homelessness and the resulting trauma requires the completion of two main objectives: solving the root causes of homelessness through a paradigm shift to a democratic government that addresses the needs of the people, and healing the trauma of past policies with social service investment. Our political representatives, our shelters, our service providers, our schools, and our culture must implement trauma-informed strategies, because within our current mode of operation, we are only making surviving in America more difficult.

Interested in measuring the TIC in your organization? Check out the ticometer at www.Thinkt3.com.

– Kyra Habekoss and Quinn Kobelak 
   NCH Interns

Police Charged with Murdering California Homeless Man

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness, Healthcare, Mental Health, Violence Against the Homeless

Santa Ana, California — Every American has the right to self defense, even against police officers, and no one in law enforcement has the right to use unreasonable force in the performance of their duty. That was the final determination made by Tony Rachauckas, Orange County’s (CA) District Attorney, after examining evidence of the July 5th beating murder of Kelly Thomas, a mentally ill homeless man whose life was brutally cut short by at least two on-duty Fullerton police officers, Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli. A total of six officers were put on paid administrative leave after Thomas’ death and prior to today’s charges.

Ramos was charged with second degree murder for craven acts that “were reckless and created a high risk of death and great bodily injury” said Rachauckas. Cicinelli, the second officer charged, is now facing involuntary manslaughter and felony excessive force. The California prosecutor further described Kelly’s last moments in excruciating detail, recalling his numerous pain-filled pleas of “I’m sorry. I can’t breath. Help, Dad.”

The district attorney described the crimes against Thomas as a “violent and desperate struggle”. A full description of the event by witnesses described the shocking extent of Thomas’ injuries and the brutality of the officers’ acts. Thomas died from brain injuries, as a result of overwhelming head trauma. Thomas suffered a variety of broken bones to the nose and cheeks, head and ribs. During the assault, Thomas was shocked repeatedly by police tasers to the head, face, back and chest cavity. The medical report showed that Thomas suffered internal bleeding, causing him to choke of his own blood.

This inhumane assault on Thomas was conducted by no less than a half dozen officers responding to a call of vehicles being broken into. Following the beating, no evidence could be found in the area of vehicles burglarized, nor was any stolen property found on Thomas.

Thomas died because six officers of the Fullerton Police Department didn’t know how to react or respond to a mentally ill person in distress and crisis. When faced with a situation that caused confusion, law enforcement at the scene chose brutal force to subdue Mr. Thomas. This was not an example of appropriate police procedures gone awry. This was a clear case of criminal ignorance, which caused the death of anther human being. This could have all been avoided by the appropriate training of law enforcement in engaging a variety of types of individuals with various mental illnesses. It should have been avoided by Mr. Thomas receiving the appropriate treatment in a place he could call home.

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