Community & Behavioral Health | Recovery | Social Change

ChangingTheConversation-NewBlogTitle-1

Changing the Conversation

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.

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.

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?

Supporting Families with New Babies: We All Have a Role to Play

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. Nearly 44 million American adults and an estimated 13 –20 percent of children living in the United States (up to 1 out of 5 children) experience a mental disorder in a given year. According to Postpartum Progress, one in seven new mothers experience postpartum depression or a related illness and the rate for women of low socioeconomic status increases to one in four.

May is also a significant month in my family. This year, I turned 40, and my oldest daughter turned 5. I have been thinking about Mental Health Awareness Month and these milestones, reflecting on how my life changed when I became a mom and who supported our family along the way…