When the yellow school bus pulls up to her stop, 6 year old Tanisha looks out the window and sees her mother waiting for her, just as she does everyday. The door opens and she gets off the bus. There’s so much to tell her mom about her last day of Grade 1 she barely stops for a hug.
Like thousands of school children throughout the city, summer vacation has begun for Tanisha.
Her mom tells her they have to hurry. Lunch is ready and after lunch, she’s got a surprise.
What could the surprise be, Tanisha wonders? For a moment, she feels excitement. And then, the all too familiar tug of worry, of fear, of insecurity seeps in.
Whatever it is, even at seven years old, she knows it’s probably not good news. The last time her mom had a surprise for her they ended up here, in a room full of strangers, sharing a meal and a big space where she no longer had a room of her own and all her stuffed toys to keep her company. That surprise left her homeless.
And the worry turns into a tight knot in her stomach. She can’t eat her lunch. She can’t even tell her mom all the exciting things that had happened on the last school day of the year.
Homelessness is hard. It seldom makes sense, even for adults. How could they have ended up here, in this place where they did everything they could to avoid being.
How could they not find a job? A place to live that they could afford? How could there be no money left? No family to take them in? No place to go?
Arriving at a shelter door feels so desperate. So hopeless. But when there are no options, where else can they go? And while they may not always understand how they ended up here, they know that at the shelter their children will have food to eat, a safe place to sleep. And so they open the door to a world they never imagined and step across the threshold of that place called homeless.
For children, being homeless is even more difficult to understand. The insecurity. The instability. The loss of everything that made up their world is too big a thought to hold onto. And while they may not have words for it, they can feel their parent’s fear. Their sadness. Their anxiety. Their anger.
Helping children cope with the fears and insecurities of homelessness is vital to paving the way for them to develop healthy relationships and coping skills to carry with them wherever they go in life.
When a family arrives at the shelter door, specially trained early childhood development professionals immediately step in to help the children understand what’s happening in the world around them, and the world inside them.
At the same time, case managers and advocates work with the parents to identify their immediate and long term needs and to connect them to resources that will help them get housed.
Because of your support, the surprise Tanisha’s mother had to share that last day of school was the best news possible. They were moving out of the shelter. Tanisha was getting her own room. Her mother, with the help provided through a network of agencies working together to end family homelessness, had a job and a home to raise her daughter in. A home filled with the smells of home cooking and the sounds of laughter, story-telling and a little girl’s retelling of the events of her last day at school before summer vacation. A home where they could live without fearing they would one day lose this place called home again.