What We Do
We believe that play is a human right that all children deserve, regardless of housing status. We partner with homeless shelters in Washington, D.C. to create safe and fun play spaces for the children where they live. (We are not a shelter.)
Through weekly programs, our trained and screened volunteers provide activities, healthy snacks, and fun for children at emergency shelter and transitional housing sites throughout Washington, D.C. Our trauma-informed programs seek to restore normalcy by providing opportunities for children to learn and heal through play, and empowering them to make choices, express themselves, relate to others, and find support.
Staff and volunteers serve as role models for youth and allies to the entire family with parent support and referrals, clothing and school supply donations, and opportunities to celebrate with holiday parties throughout the year. We provide field trips so children and youth can experience the rich culture of Washington, D.C. and take a break from weekends in a shelter. Through advocacy, we lift up the voices of families to ensure that safe, supportive shelters and affordable housing remain priorities for city leaders.
Volunteers run Playtime in a beautiful baby room for infants and toddlers from 6 months to 3, as well as a big kids’ room where children ages 3-11 can choose activities from a variety of colorful and exciting stations.
Playtime’s Preteen Program at D.C. General was founded in September 2013 to support the developmental needs of preteens and is held twice a week on Mondays and Wednesdays. The program focuses on supporting children aged 8-12 in active living, wellness and empowerment.
To meet the unique developmental needs of teenagers experiencing homelessness, we created our Teen Program at D.C. General in September 2011 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Teens receive help enrolling in school and work programs, and the opportunity to try out new activities like spray painting, martial arts, yoga, dancing, cooking, and more. Our volunteers serve as mentors, advocates, and facilitators of the time and space teens need to grow and develop with their peers.
Teenagers living in temporary housing programs are often facing multiple stressors and are highly aware of the stigma of their families’ homeless status. Learn more about our teen program.
FIELD TRIP PROGRAM
In addition to our onsite programs, we also facilitate field trips for all program participants to provide opportunities to get out of the shelter and explore the city.
Volunteers have led boat trips on the Potomac with Sierra Club Inner City Outings, visits to the zoo, trips to museum exhibits, and excursions to amusement parks. The Playtime Project has also brought teens from D.C. General, the largest family shelter in the District, on many “firsts” to the Washington Monument, ice skating on the mall, a tour of the West Wing of the White House, a dance class, a picnic in the National Arboretum, tours of local colleges and universities, baseball games and more.
Volunteers who lead field trips are long-term, trained members of our team. If you have an idea for a field trip or access to discounted/free tickets to an event, museum, or sports team, please contact us!
Statistic – The Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless
In January 2017, there were 1,166 families experiencing homelessness in D.C., an increase of 103 percent since 2009. Despite their growing numbers, children living in shelters are invisible to most of us; they have no voice and no constituency.