A lobby elevator door slides open. An excited little boy shouts to another, ‘Hey, you live here too! How long are you staying for?!’
Stepping out, the other little boy, recognizing his friend from their time shared in a local shelter, eagerly answers, ‘what floor are you staying on?!’
Their mothers smile and chat briefly before leading the boys in different directions, one into the elevator and up four floors to their new home for the next 12 months, and one down the hallway to switch over a load in the shared laundry room.
From March 2018 to March 2019, 45 families including 62 children lived at Bethlehem Place our one-year Transitional Housing residence. Here, Bethlehem’s Community Support Workers and Early Childhood Educators create an environment of consistency where personal resiliency can be built upon and independent living can flourish.
Staff at Bethlehem are equipped with trauma intervention techniques for parents and their children. Our approach recognizes that parents require support to make real changes in their own lives. This support is meant to result in better equipped and supportive parents. Strengthening a parents’ resiliency can minimize the psychological impacts of trauma on them and their children.
Children and adults who have experienced homelessness are at a heightened risk for neglect, abuse, and family dysfunction. The impact of early childhood toxic stress can be unforgiving, leading to addictions, illnesses, depression, and mental health issues.
Some adults who have experienced early childhood trauma struggle with poverty and homelessness while others thrive. Siblings experiencing the same adversities can be equipped with differing personalities and resiliency, and end up leading very different lives.
“We all don’t start with the same capacity. If you have survived trauma, at some point you were given the tools to survive. What if you were never given the tools? Those are some of the people we support.” Rob Cammaert, Housing First Outreach Worker
There is good news for those who have waded through childhood trauma and stress unsuccessfully; resilience can be built over time.
“Promoting wellness in parents has a direct impact on the wellbeing of children. When children see their parents reaching out for help, they learn from positive role modelling. Children are more likely to reach out for support throughout their lives, which provides us with an opportunity to help promote a healthier next generation. ” Carolyn Fish, Program Manager
To help promote intergenerational resiliency, Bethlehem offers a variety of support programs and services. Pathways to healing and recovery are offered through a variety of life skills workshops, individual sessions and support groups. Last year we offered 73 group sessions.
In Bethlehem’s ‘Healthy Coping Strategies Group’, Community Support Workers facilitate an environment where participants learn what trauma is and the impact that it may have had on them at different stages of their lives. Clients often begin to recognize how they have used negative coping strategies to cope with early childhood trauma and work on making healthier choices.
Without these types of supports the impact on families can be devastating.
Our programs and groups are funded in large part by donations from the community and our fundraising efforts.