Homeless Solutions Healthy Children Initiative
In our last few blog posts, we spent some time describing the transformational changes that summer camp had on the lives of the children living in our Emergency Shelter. Now for our next two blogs, we want to share what summer camp means to the parent of a homeless child.
Last Spring, Amy was seriously worried about how her son, James, would spend his summer while she worked three part-time jobs. During the school year, Amy had the peace of mind of knowing that James spent his day learning in school. He could continue developing his social and emotional skills, and most importantly, she was assured that he was receiving a balanced meal every day.
But the summer was different. If she left her 16-year-old son alone at the shelter all summer, how would he continue building his educational and social skills? Would he ever get out of his room to play outdoors? Most important, where could James get nutritious meals? (The shelter only serves breakfast and dinner on weekdays.) These are the kinds of questions that create a huge amount of stress and uncertainty for the parents of homeless children.
But this year was different. Through the support of the New Jersey Healthy Communities Network, James had the opportunity to spend several weeks away at sleepaway camp. During those weeks away, he ventured out of his comfort zone of video games and his tablet. He made lots of new friends and discovered all that the great outdoors has to offer. James went horseback riding, zip lining, and even traded his bunk bed in a cabin for several days sleeping out under the stars.
More importantly, James discovered a new, exciting interest. While at camp, James learned about Counselors-In-Training, a group of older boys and girls that help out with the younger campers. James couldn’t wait to get home and tell his mother that next year, he hopes to enroll as a CIT. That way he can provide a rewarding experience to a young camper, just as it had been rewarding for him. And Amy knew that she could go to work all summer, knowing that her son was growing and maturing into a confident, responsible young man.
About the Grantee
Our mission is “to offer shelter, social services and supportive housing to homeless and low-income people.” We make that an everyday reality through a strategically-designed architecture of housing options -- Emergency Shelter (short term), Transitional Housing (intermediate), and Affordable Housing (long term) – that combined with supportive services, help move people to better, healthier lives