A Common Thread Shifting to Trauma-Informed Care for Homeless Families at Genesis Home, Durham, NC
The families who come in and out of Genesis Home are, in a word, diverse. They arrive from different places, have varying backgrounds and bring distinct personalities to the house. But there is one common thread among them – at some point in their lives, the families who enter Genesis Home have experienced trauma.
According to an article from the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, 90 percent of homeless women have been abused by their intimate partners and 50 to 60 percent of mothers became homeless because they were fleeing a violent relationship. Moreover, homeless children are exposed to violence at very high rates.
However, trauma is not limited to physical violence. Through the loss of stable shelter, family connections and accustomed social roles and routines, the event of becoming homeless also can lead to trauma.
These findings have led to a shift toward “Trauma-Informed Care” (TIC) for the homeless population, where the focus is on identifying and addressing the trauma that led to and could prohibit a homeless person or family from securing long-term housing stability.
What exactly is TIC? A recent study defined it as “a strengths-based framework that is grounded in an understanding of and responsiveness to the impact of trauma, that emphasizes physical, psychological, and emotional safety for both providers and survivors, and that creates opportunities for survivors to rebuild a sense of control and empowerment.”
While the concept is fairly new and continues to evolve, a review of research literature by the Homelessness Resource Center found that it has promising results. Programs that incorporate TIC show better outcomes, improved self-esteem and relationships for children, a decrease in psychiatric symptoms and abuse, and a positive effect on housing stability, all while being cost-effective.
Genesis Home has embraced this philosophy. Our staff is trained to get to know each family on a deeper level to identify the trauma that would prevent long-term housing stability and a higher quality of life. Once we achieve this, we work to empower our families through six key interventions identified within our Strategic Plan, which serve as the strengths-based framework to understand and address the impact of the trauma: Housing, Income, Mental Health, Financial Literacy, Family Resilience and Health, and Children’s Enrichment.
For each family in Genesis Home, we create an individualized plan based on a needs assessment that maps out the required program elements within the six key intervention areas. We then link each family to natural and community resources for support. For example, we look to family or friends who are in stable situations to provide support to a family within the housing intervention. Additionally, we can draw on resources such as the Durham Economic Resource Center for budgeting, vocational training, job readiness and resume building support for the income intervention.
By providing training to our staff, evaluating and improving our programs and rethinking the way we communicate with our families, we hope to create a more efficient program based on Trauma-Informed Care that reduces the length of stay and empowers our families to achieve long-term housing stability.
Trauma may be a common thread among our Genesis Home families, but it is our goal to cut that thread and in its place build a strong foundation for their futures.
Please visit our website to see how you can help end homelessness--one family at a time.
 Trauma Informed Care for Mothers Experiencing Homelessness, United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, http://www.usich.gov/issue/trauma_informed_care (February 13, 2013).
 Addressing Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Caused by Homelessness, National Alliance to End Homelessness Solutions Brief, http://www.endhomelessness.org/library/entry/addressing-post-traumatic-stress-disorder-caused-by-homelessness (October 17, 2012).
 Elizabeth K. Hopper, et al., "Shelter from the Storm: Trauma-Informed Care in Homelessness Services Settings," The Open Health Services and Policy Journal 3 (2010): 80-100.
 Laura Winn, et al., Trauma-Informed Care: What Do We Know? Homelessness Resource Center, http://homeless.samhsa.gov/Resource/Trauma-Informed-Care-What-Do-We-Know-50016.aspx (February 13, 2013).
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