DC General Teen Program Is Changing Lives
What is it like to be a teenager living at the DC General family shelter? What’s it like to be a mom, supporting a teen as he grows into a man in less-than ideal circumstances? Playtime recently had the chance to sit down with a family who is living this reality, preparing for a brighter future while in the midst of housing insecurity.
Ms. Day and her son, Marcellus can tell you all about it. They have been residents at DC General for roughly eight months now. That’s not so long in the abstract, but try living it. Eight months can feel like eternity when you’ve got no place to call your own.
This is especially true in the life of a child. Marcellus is spending one of the most formative parts of his life in the midst of upheaval that many families can only imagine. Yet, in spite of all the challenges, he is finding ways to discover joy and create beauty. While at DC General, he has developed his skills as an artist, working on a fantastic mural with artists from CHAW that now sprawls through the halls of DC General’s first floor, where Playtime operates its programs for young children.
Ms. Day speaks glowingly about her family’s experience of participating in the Teen Program which both mother and son say has had a huge impact on their lives. “It gives teens the time to be together… [and] keeps kids out of trouble” that they might otherwise encounter amidst the limited opportunities of shelter life. Playtime’s mentoring program provides help with schoolwork and goal-setting, paving the way for teens to achieve greater academic success. Ms. Day has particularly appreciated the way that Playtime has presented her son with new activities that allow him to grow in his artistic endeavors. Marcellus’ artistic pursuits while participating in Playtime have encouraged him in his desire to pursue studies as an architect.
Ms. Day appreciates the supportive community that Marcellus has found in the teen program. Her son has a team of people to turn to if he needs help or has struggles that he doesn’t necessarily want to share with his mom. The Playtime Project keeps preteens and teens busy and creates a stable and organized environment where they can learn, have fun, and make friends. After three seasons in the shelter, Ms. Day says that they have plans to move out soon. Yet even as they prepare for their departure, they are excited to talk about the new Preteen & Teen Space that is about to transform the experience of youth and families at DC General.
“The new teen space is going to make a huge difference in the lives of these kids,” says Ms. Day. Up until now, the teens and preteens have had to meet in space used by others, forcing them to change locations regularly. Once the new space is completed, youth won’t have to keep moving within the shelter. They’ll finally have a place that is truly for them. “Stability does make a big difference in the kids’ lives,” she says.
The impact of Playtime’s youth programs will become even more significant once the new Preteen & Teen Space is completed. We’re going to transform the old hospital lobby into a modern, friendly, dedicated space for our young people. Though DC General is slated to be closed in about five years, in the meantime, this new space will send the message to the hundreds of young people who will pass through its doors that they are worthy of the investment of an entire community.