Potty Training and Shelter Living

Posted by on Mar 1, 2017 in Blog, Featured Stories |

Photo by Rebecca Staple

Photo by Rebecca Staple

by Jamila Larson, Executive Director

Did you ever live in a dorm in college? Remember trying to fit all your things into a small room and gathering all your toiletries to take a shower in the communal bathroom down the hall. Now imagine this is your living situation today, and you’re a mother of a baby and a toddler. And instead of a dorm on campus, you’re living with your family in what was once a hospital room in DC General Emergency Family Shelter.

Toilet training is a challenge in the best of situations, but for families living in temporary housing and sharing bathroom facilities, potty training can be an additional worry. Many of the children in shelters are under the age of five.

On one recent warm evening, several moms sat on a bench, watching their children on the playground outside DC General. “Yeah, it’s a struggle sometimes,” said one mom. “Especially when you have to walk them down the hall.”

“We should have a potty training movement,” said another mom with a grin. “You know, have someone come in and provide training and tips on how to deal with it.”

Photo by Rebecca Staple

Photo by Rebecca Staple

Having a smooth and successful toilet-training stage contributes to a child’s self-esteem and encourages independence. But while parents deal with the stress of homelessness, the challenge of potty training can add anxiety for the child, too.

Most families in temporary housing have limited resources, which includes clothes and sheets. If you’ve ever potty trained a toddler, you know that the window of time between realizing the child needs to go and getting them on a potty is small. Add to that, waiting for a guard to send you up to your floor in an elevator and getting down the hall to the bathroom – well, that’s probably another set of clothes ruined.

As a result, laundry becomes a big chore. Shelter residents are limited to a once- or twice-a-week use of the onsite laundry facilities, which were installed only about a year ago. Because shelter rules don’t allow children to be left alone, parents must drag them along while they wait for a free machine to wash clothes. Plus, laundry detergent costs money, too. If your toddler has multiple accidents during the day, you may run out of clothes before the next laundry day. And imagine the added frustration this creates!

Playtime is fortunate to partner with the DC Diaper Bank, which provides a reliable supply of free diapers to families in need living in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Every month, with their help, we distribute around 7,500 diapers to families in our programs. But this doesn’t include sufficient training pants. Providing training pants (or Pull-Ups) for toddlers ready for potty training is one of our greatest needs. Most of our families have toddlers and, if we had the resources, we could distribute about 100 packs of Pull-Ups every month.

Having enough Pull-Ups to get our families through this training stage can make all the difference. You can help by purchasing and donating a box of Pull-Ups for us to distribute at our programs. Visit our website for more information on our greatest needs.

Your generous gifts are not only deeply appreciated, but they have a direct impact on families struggling through a challenging period in their lives.

Jamila ran Playtime as a volunteer since it was founded in 2003 and assumed the role as first full-time Executive Director in 2009. In 2012, she was named a Washingtonian of the Year by Washingtonian magazine for her leadership of Playtime.