GREAT Youth and Families Program
Housing Families’ GREAT Youth and Families program provides vital services for homeless children and their parents. Children’s services include after school tutoring, individual and group counseling, and summer enrichment activities.
There is significant need for support services for homeless children in Massachusetts, where the average age of a homeless person is just 8 years old. The GREAT Youth and Families Program’s goal is to help homeless children acquire the skills to succeed in school and throughout their lives.
The program’s name was created by program staff, to highlight the key focus areas for children’s long-term success:
According to the National Center on Family Homelessness, homeless children are four times as likely to have a developmental delay. With frequent housing changes, homeless children often only fall farther behind in school.
The GREAT Youth and Families Program operates year-round, providing children’s services that include:
- After school tutoring and homework help – to help children improve in school and build skills for future success;
- Individual and group arts and expressive therapy – to address the social and emotional needs of children who have experienced significant trauma.
Reducing Summer Learning Loss – Summer Camp
Summertime for homeless children means another transition. Often, it also means fewer meals, less time with friends, and increased time physically spent in shelters.
The GREAT Youth and Families Program recognizes that homeless children benefit greatly from summer camp activities that keep their minds working and keep their bodies healthy.
Children who do not keep their minds active during the summer months often lose some of the skills and knowledge that they gained in the previous school year.
The summer enrichment program’s goal is to reduce this summer learning loss and provide homeless children with positive, pro-social activities with their peers. Activities include:
- Educational and enrichment field trips – trips to local colleges, museums, and local cultural exhibits
- Engaging and academically stimulating activities – tutoring and critical thinking activities, such as reading, educational games, and puzzles, keep children’s minds active throughout the summer
- Health and wellness activities – karate instruction, dance instruction, hiking, swimming, recreational field trips, healthy eating activities, and other sports and movement activities
- Arts therapy – group arts and play therapy to address social and emotional challenges
Counseling and Support for Parents
In addition to children’s services, the GREAT Youth and Families program also provides services for parents. Parents learn methods to cope and heal from toxic-stress and learn skills to better support their children.
- Individual counseling and therapy groups– address the social and emotional needs of parents who have experienced significant trauma.
- Parenting Skills Groups – provide a safe environment for parents to discuss their individual challenges. Parents share their experiences while learning effective methods to address their needs and their child’s needs.
- Women’s Groups – provide a safe, confidential space for women to express their feelings, build self-esteem, and heal and grow from past traumas.
Housing Families’ therapeutic arts program is supported in part by a grant from the Mass Cultural Council,
and the Malden Cultural Council and Everett Cultural Council, local agencies which are supported by the Mass Cultural Council, a state agency.