The mission of the Homeless Children’s Playtime Project is to nurture healthy child development and reduce the effects of trauma among children living in temporary housing programs in Washington, D.C.
We seek to create a city that provides every opportunity for children in families experiencing homelessness to succeed by ensuring consistent opportunities to play and learn, offering support services for families, and advocating for affordable housing and safe shelter.
As housing prices rise, so do the number of families experiencing homelessness in our city. This vulnerable time in a child’s life presents unprecedented risk factors as families sleep in unsafe situations while they await shelter. Children in families who are granted emergency housing are admitted into a system that can compromise their needs and even threaten their safety. In many shelters, children are routinely denied the developmental opportunities and psychological support necessary for healthy child development. Recreation is often restricted in shelter environments and children are often denied necessities like toys, books, and a space to run around and call their own.
The trauma for children who experience homelessness can be reduced by introducing play programs and other services in family shelters. In most of the sites we serve, the Playtime Project is the only children’s program offered.
Our volunteers each make a weekly commitment to protect a child’s right to learn and heal through play. They ensure that our child-friendly rooms don’t sit empty and that a safe space exists for children to explore, create and express themselves as a part of a normal, healthy childhood experience. Providing one-on-one attention to children and teens sends the message that they are important.
Approximately 50% of families in the city’s mainstream homeless shelter system in Washington D.C. have experienced domestic violence. By age twelve, 83% of homeless children have been exposed to at least one serious violent event.