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    t3 Threads: Changing the Conversation

    Science-Based Strategies to Support Children Experiencing Homelessness

    Have you ever watched an infant play? I mean really observed them? Try it some time, and while you watch, contemplate this...

    At birth, we have 100 billion neurons, most of which are not connected. Infants form 700 new neural connections every second – tens of thousands of pathways that literally build the architecture of their brains. Through their senses and their relationships, they come to know the external world, and their brain begins to build the systems to understand it. The attention they receive (or don’t) from their primary caregivers, stimulation they receive from their environment, stress they experience and the responses to that stress by those around them reinforce or prune away at their neural connections and promote or hinder cognitive, physical, and social-emotional development.

    Five Ways to Interact with People who are Panhandling

    Right before my eyes, I have seen the numbers of people asking for money increase in New Bedford, MA. Seven years ago, you might have seen two or three people a month. Now, there are four at a single intersection every day.

    You may ask, how do I interact with these individuals? Do I give money, or will they just spend it on drugs and alcohol? Do I provide food? Do I put my head down and pretend I don’t see them at all? Are they even homeless? Am I being played? Depending on whom you ask, you will most likely get a different answer. The Center for Social Innovation and t3 have a wealth of knowledge about homelessness. So, I asked my colleagues, what do they do when someone asking for money approaches them? There were many different opinions, but five patterns arose.

    Helping Children Respond to Homelessness

    My kids have known about homelessness since the moment they knew about things. They are currently 5 and 8 years old and were gestated, born, and grew up while I was running a drop-in center for homeless young adults. In addition to constantly hearing about my work and people with whom I worked, they came to picnics, holiday parties, talent shows, and many other community events connected to the drop-in center.

    They knew by name some of the young adults who lived or panhandled on the streets of Harvard Square. They made pictures for my clients who moved into housing “so they have something pretty on the wall." Their room is decorated with artwork created by homeless young adults; they say “I hope I can be that good at art one day.” One rainy and cold fall morning, my oldest – who was 6 at the time – looked at me over breakfast and said “Rain, rain, go away. Mama’s friends have nowhere to stay.” My children are aware of homelessness, poverty, and injustice – understanding this is part of understanding their mother.

    Elder Homelessness: Acknowledging the Need and Responding

    We see the need almost every day. As we move through our daily routines, we encounter people who are experiencing homelessness. Occasionally we will drop change in their cup or walk on the other side of the street. On any particular day, we may be on our way to Starbucks or to the grocery store when we notice a person who is experiencing homelessness. We sadly lament…it is horrible that a person is elderly and homeless. We stop and think about the horrors of homelessness, especially for elders. Then we continue on our journey...

    5 Tips to Help People Experiencing Homelessness in the Heat

    Most people know the impact of winter weather on people experiencing homelessness, but few realize the risk that summer heat places on those living on the streets. With temperatures rising and few places to escape from the heat, experiencing homelessness in the summer months is not only uncomfortable, but can be an extreme health hazard. Asphalt and concrete heats from the suns rays, posing a danger to those who may have no other option but to make a home on the street. Hot summer temperatures increase the risk of dehydration, sunburn, and disorientation. Data suggest that heat-related illness is more likely to impact individuals from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and that “very poor, and socially isolated individuals are disproportionally affected by heat waves.

    Paying Attention to Mental Health while Living on the Streets

    Trigger Warning: Violence, Trauma

    Being on the streets poses many challenges. Finding food, water, and shelter from the elements is always the top priority. But, the one thing that we (even street folks) forget about is mental health.

    While I was on the streets, thinking about my mental health always felt like a tsunami. About seven years ago, I was living on Haight Street in San Francisco. I hung around Golden Gate Park, often sleeping somewhere in the thick of the park. I had been in San Francisco for about three months, had made some great friends, and was in the midst of living the California dream. I spent most of the day hanging out with friends, panhandling, and making music, arts, and crafts - just trying to have a good time. I had gotten in the habit of sleeping with my friends, but one night I didn’t have the energy to make it up yet another hill; if you don’t like hills don’t go to San Francisco without a car. I decided to sleep in Panhandle Park instead of walking all the way back to Golden Gate where my friends gathered. I woke up at 6:30 am, packed up my stuff, and took a quick inventory of my things. I had $20, so I raced to the local coffee place, grabbed breakfast for everyone, and went to Golden Gate.

    Homeless on the Streets: A Transgender Person’s Experiences

    Being on the streets can be tough, and being transgender can be difficult. But, being both transgender AND homeless is like being involved in a covert war that a lot of folks don’t even realize is going on.

    Trans folks face a multitude of hurdles in life, but living on the street poses additional problems. Everyday tasks like shaving or washing can be daunting depending on where you are in the country. When I was hitchhiking, I would sometimes end up at a random truck stop where they did not have private bathrooms. I was at a point in my life where I had to shave my face everyday. If I didn’t, it could be dangerous – people would start to question if I was “really” a woman, and my ability to get a ride that was safe would be jeopardized. I had to get inventive.

    A Home in My Heart: Lessons Learned from my Father’s Experience of Homelessness

    A day didn’t go by without my wondering about his whereabouts. Certain days were always more of a cause for concern; bitter cold winter nights, scorching hot summer days, and holidays—especially Christmas and Father’s Day. “I wonder where he will sleep tonight? Will he have enough to eat?” These were my perpetual thoughts as a child with a father experiencing homelessness.

    Throughout most of my adolescent life, my father lived on the streets, facing complex mental health and substance use issues. These issues cycled him in and out of recovery housing and street living. My father’s separation from my mother, along with his severe mental health and substance use issues, complicated our relationship. After about 10 years on the streets and a traumatic brain injury, he now safely resides in an assisted living facility.

    Racism and Youth Homelessness

    This post is taken from a transcript of comments by Jeff Olivet [JO] and Marc Dones [MD] at the White House Policy Briefing on Ending Youth Homelessness on June 3, 2016 sponsored by The White House, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, and True Colors Fund.

    [JO]: We have a problem. It is a problem that rarely gets named. We talk about health disparities. We talk about cultural competence. We talk about disproportionality. We sugarcoat the language and speak in euphemisms.

    What we do not say often enough or loudly enough is that racism and homelessness are inextricably linked. Yes, racism. It is time to speak truth. It is time to call it what it is.

    Ending Houselessness is not Ending Homelessness

    End Homelessness

    I recently came across a well-researched online article on homelessness in the United States, and the potential for us to end this problem – if we just had a little more political will to fully fund the housing subsidies needed to sweep the streets clean of the chronically homeless population.

    While I am generally pleased to see any journalistic attention paid to this daunting and commonly ignored social blight, I worry about the incompleteness of the conversation.

    First, who are we talking about?

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