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Family Homelessness INNformation Series: Using trauma-informed care to impact youth

Family Homelessness INNformation Series: Episode 3 – Trauma-Informed Care
Using trauma-informed care to impact youth

By: Colin Doucette

Hi, my name is Colin Doucette, and I am the Program Manager of the Inn’s Youth Development Program. I have been working with Inn from the Cold since January 2015 in many capacities, including Family Advocate, Early Childhood Development Worker and Team Lead. Since September 2017, my duty at the Inn has been to intentionally focus on and support the needs of all youth who enter our doors. My vision is to create a safe and supportive space for youth to find connection. On March 1, 2018 the “Youth Zone” officially opened for youth aged 10 years and older who enter shelter as a place that they could call their own. I am excited to be writing a guest blog on trauma-informed care for our Family Homelessness INNformation Series.

How do I incorporate trauma-informed care into my work?

Trauma-informed care is a philosophy, or a way of seeing the others in a more empathic and supportive way. It highlights the fact that all people potential to carry some form of trauma with them. This is problematic as trauma negatively impacts people in profound ways. It is important we provide care knowing each individual has suffered through something traumatic that has led them to our Emergency Family Shelter.

I believe at one point all of us will experience some form trauma or adversity. This is inevitable. Being trauma-aware helps service providers assist others in navigating and understanding trauma and its impact. Making sense of trauma is incredibly empowering and has the potential to set people on a path of profound positive life change.

I strive to truly listen to and connect with the youth I work with. Listening is the easiest way to help validate individual’s feelings and make sense of what has happened to them. Being an empathetic witness of another person’s pain makes experiencing homelessness a lot less lonely.

How does trauma informed care help the children and families staying at the Inn?

There is an incredible amount of social and scientific research that adds to the collective understanding of the impact that complex trauma has on a person’s overall health and well-being. At the Inn, we do our best to provide a buffer against the toxic stress caused by trauma through supportive, close working relationships and meaningful social interactions with families.

The more intentional we become in understanding trauma, the better equipped we are to provide exceptional care to our guests. We know that our awareness of being trauma-informed results in more positive outcomes for all of the individuals who have no choice but to walk through our doors and face the realities of homelessness.

How does the incorporation of trauma-informed care move our mission forward?

The Inn’s mission is to offer shelter, sanctuary, and healing to assist homeless children and their families achieve independence.

I believe that the incorporation of a trauma-informed care has greatly improved our ability to be client-focused when making decisions about programming, spaces and housing for guests and client care. By listening to the voices of the families, our organization prioritizes the needs of families. As a result, we achieve organizational processes which help us become that much closer to achieving our mission.

What impact can trauma-informed care have over youth who have experienced trauma?

The immediate impact is we mitigate invalidating the experiences of youth and alienating them. The truth is, for youth experiencing homelessness it is a period landmarked with disruptions, feelings of losing control and uncertainty. Fortunately, youth have immense potential to cultivate incredible lifelong resiliency.

They want to talk about what is happening to them. They want to grow from adversity; being forced to enroll in new schools, move away from family, neighbours, and friends. They want to discover and connect within themselves in a new way; they ask: “Who am I now?”, “How can I manage this?” They have so many questions to answer within themselves.

A youth’s experience of homelessness can be a traumatic event, or it can be a time for growth, connection, and a fresh start. Trauma-informed care allows us to make space for important conversations with true empathy and support. It opens up the door for connection and change.

Examples of the positive impact of a trauma-informed care with a youth in shelter

Positive impacts I have observed related to using trauma-informed practice:

  • Providing youth with options cultivates a sense of safety and control over their situation.
  • Youth who are listened to and their concerns taken seriously are empowered and feel like they have the ability to be better and do better for themselves regardless of the challenges they face.
  • Asking “What happened to you” is a question youth are very keen to answer. They want their voices to be heard.
  • Explaining what trauma is to youth gives them an opportunity to understand and cope with stress. Perspective is everything for these folks.
  • Nothing is better than relaxing with your friends and connecting on a human level. Empathy. Empathy. Empathy. Snacks never hurt, either.

If someone is looking to learn more or adopt some of these strategies, how can they do so?

Take the initiative to expand your mind. Talk with experts in the field. Gather information. Do your research and find credible sources. E-mail me?

Where to start on Google:

  • Trauma-informed practice
  • How to be trauma aware
  • What is complex trauma?
  • How can I be trauma aware?
  • Trauma-informed language

Thanks to Colin for authoring this blog post!

Find out more on our Family Homelessness INNformation Series HERE.
You can watch episodes from part 1 HERE, or read our blog summary HERE.
You can watch episodes from part 2 HERE, read our blog summary HERE, and read an interview with our data analyst Anthony Eagle HERE.
You can watch episodes from part 3 HERE, read our blog summary HERE.

Over the next few weeks we will be releasing weekly episodes where we sit down with experts in homelessness to discuss issues pertaining to family homelessness.

The episodes are:

Episode 1: Differences between Family & Adult Single Homelessness;
Episode 2: Data and Research;
Episode 3: Trauma-Informed Care;
Episode 4: Economic Barriers and Solutions;
Episode 5: Social Inclusion and the Case for Adequate;
Episode 6: Affordable Family Housing.