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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

– Kyra Habekoss and Quinn Kobelak 
   NCH Interns


Written by Je'Lissa on . Posted in Youth

     Hidden along the streets corners of major urban cities and in the wooded terrain of rural communities, a hidden crisis threatens our nation’s future. Homeless, unaccompanied young adults struggle to survive and access basic resources. They age out of the foster care system, are ostracized from their communities because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, or experience abuse in the home, only to find themselves with nowhere to go besides the streets. They fear revealing their sexual identity because of the potential risk of harassment and physical violence. They sell themselves and trade sexual favors for a place to sleep and a meal to eat. Youth homelessness is too often ignored by our nation’s political leaders and communities. In order to protect the next generation of Americans, we must call for a national commitment ensuring that every young person in this country has a safe place to sleep, and the necessary resources to build stronger, healthier futures for themselves and our country.

#ActforYouth 2015     Emergency shelters provide the most immediate assistance for homeless individuals. A bed for the night protects a person from the elements, assault, and harassment. For unaccompanied homeless youth, however, accessing a shelter is extremely difficult. Only 4,000 youth shelter beds are currently available nationwide for the almost 500,000 young people who are homeless. The need far outweighs the resources available. The National Campaign for Youth Shelter calls for a federal commitment to provide all youths with immediate access to safe shelter, additional shelter beds for young people, and a more accurate effort to count the number of unhoused youth

     The lack of shelter beds and resources committed to ending youth homelessness reflects the absence of youth in the overall national discussion on poverty. As individuals experiencing homelessness endure increasing criminalization and anti-homeless policies, unaccompanied young people face an uncertain future that is heighten by barriers that might prevent them from completing their education or gaining access to sustainable employment. They struggle to find acceptance and encounter discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. They are running a race against poverty and homelessness. Society’s obstacles make this race seem unwinnable and the hope for a better future dwindles away.

     The National Coalition for the Homeless and the Ali Forney Center brought together anti-poverty groups, LGBTQ organizations, and formally homeless young people this week for a convening on ending youth homelessness. We know that in order to eradicate homelessness for everyone, youth must be part of the conversation and part of the solution. Shelter beds help young people who are experiencing homelessness to access education, employment, and health services which helps them to build stronger and healthier futures. These better futures can all start with a safe place to sleep. It’s time to #Act4Youth!

-Deirdre Walsh
Student Activist, National Coalition for the Homeless Intern 

Congress Takes a Stand against Youth Homelessness with Reauthorized Bill

Written by Je'Lissa on . Posted in Policy Advocacy, Youth

On January 27, 2015, Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) to expand programs for vulnerable youth who are homeless and on their own. The National Coalition for the Homeless strongly endorses this legislation.

This bill would reauthorize and expand the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act, a law that expired in the last Congress. The new bill, titled the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act (RHYTPA), will continue programs for unaccompanied homeless youth with increased funding for services such as transitional housing and street outreach. Expansion of RHYTPA also ensures LGBTQ youth are granted access to services free of discrimination. It also expands support for survivors of human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

The National Coalition applauds the work of Senators Collins, Leahy, Ayotte, and Booker on this important piece of legislation. We urge Congress to pass this legislation without delay.


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