Last week, Poverty Center staff and volunteers Jane Atmatzidis (UNC Law 2013), Charlotte Stewart (UNC Law 2014), and Isaac King (Univ. of Miami Law 2014) traveled to Raleigh, but not for the usual visits to the legislature or a foray into the restaurant scene. Last week we went to get our hands dirty by digging, moving dirt, and drawing out plans for a new playground at the site of PLM Families Together (along with dozens of other volunteers, of course).
PLM Families together is a non-profit organization located in Raleigh that helps families move from homelessness to stable housing. The playground is important because as parents go about the business of recovering from sometimes traumatic entries into and journeys out of homelessness, it's important for a kid to, well, be a kid sometimes.
As you might imagine, children who are homeless are potentially exposed to several "risk factors", ranging from environmental toxins to emotional trauma. Homeless children more often suffer from bouts of asthma, exposure to lead toxicity, nutritional deficits, and other health problems. Experiencing homelessness as a young child can result in increased anxiety, depression, or behavior problems. It can also cause a child to miss school or switch schools, resulting in social upheaval.
So will a playground fix all those things? Surely not. But it might help a kid who has been through some tough times smile a little bit. And it might lead to a game of tag which might lead to a making of a friend. And for us volunteers, it certainly left us with a fuller perspective of the challenges folks coming out of homelessness face as well as an appreciation of folks who are doing great work to help them out.
For more information on PLM Families Together, check out their website or the recent article in the North Raleigh News covering the build.
For further reading on the effects of homelessness on children, check out the following:
Long-Term Associations of Homelessness With Children's Well-Being, Shinn, M., Schteingart, J., Williams, N., Carlin-Mathis, J., Bialo-Karagis, N., Becker-Klein, R., and Weitzman, B., American Behavioral Scientist (2008).
No Fixed Address:, Judy A. Hall PhD & Penelope L. Maza (1990), Child & Youth Services, 14:1, 35-47
Posted by Joseph Arthur Polich on Mon. November 3, 2014 1:30 PM