Worcester Homeless Children Need Your Help!⛄

⛄Upcoming Opportunities to Give Back⛄

Horizons for Homeless Children is working to improve the lives of homeless children and their families across Worcester. With new safety measures in place, they are back to bringing play opportunities to young children living in family homeless shelters.

Harbour House Photo

❄Due to the continued rise in rates of family homelessness, volunteers are needed more than ever. Horizons for Homeless Children currently seeks volunteers to support their Playspace Program, which hopes to serve over 1,375 children each week in local homeless shelters — including those in the Worcester area.

Each Playspace is supported by trained volunteers, called Playspace Activity Leaders (or “PALs”), who play with the homeless children residing in family shelters. Starting mid-March, volunteers will be returning to shelters’ outdoor play areas across the state to do socially-distanced games and activities with the children.

Horizons is offering New Volunteer Orientations online via Zoom on both Saturday, February 27, 9:30-11:30 AM and Tuesday, March 2nd, 6-8 PM. Individuals who are interested in signing up can do so at http://www.horizonschildren.org/playspace.

Each Playspace has two-hour volunteer shifts that occur throughout the week. For many children living in Worcester shelters, Playspace visits may be the only opportunity to listen to stories being read, create an artistic masterpiece, dress up as a superhero, play a musical instrument, and just have fun.

The children’s interactions with the PALs is key – the committed volunteers are what makes the program so healing. The uninterrupted attention from PALs fosters trust in the children and creates opportunities for parents to take a class, do some cooking, or even take a much-needed break for their own self-care.

Outdoor Photo PAL-Child
Volunteer this month!

“Our Playspace Program helps make sure that children can experience the joys of childhood, no matter where they live,” said Kate Barrand, President & CEO of Horizons for Homeless Children. “Critical developmental milestones happen at such a young age, and volunteers like those in the Worcester/Framingham area help ensure children living in shelters are given the opportunity to learn, play, and thrive. They are an incredible corps of people that help make this program possible for us and our shelter partners.”

Horizons for Homeless Children created the Playspace Program with the belief that play is essential to healthy childhood development, and every child has the right to play. To make healthy play possible for children living in shelters in Massachusetts, regional staff build and maintain developmentally-appropriate and trauma-informed, “kid-friendly” spaces within the shelters. Horizons for Homeless Children then stocks these spaces with books, toys, games, and arts and crafts materials.

Outdoor play areas typically include some sort of large play structure and are meticulously inspected every year to ensure safety for all. Shelter outdoor spaces are also stocked with numerous versions of toys like balls and hula-hoops, and plenty of hand sanitizer. Horizons for Homeless Children wants all children, families, and volunteers to feel safe and comfortable while they attend outdoor shifts, and has restructured their program to reflect the current times.

Worcester is home to 8 beautiful outdoor Playspaces at which volunteers can support infants, toddlers, and school-aged children. During Playspace volunteer shifts, PALs lead play activities to help each child heal from the trauma of homelessness and gain the cognitive, physical, and social/emotional skills essential to future social and academic success. Last year, the Playspace Program supported 2,549 children in the Framingham/Worcester area; state-wide, the program supported almost 17,000 children. This year, the Playspace Program hopes to serve even more children and families.

To learn more about the Horizons’ Playspace Program, or to sign up for any of the upcoming trainings, please visit www.horizonschildren.org/playspace