The Whitechapel Centre’s Children and Young Persons Project works with children who are living with their families, experiencing homelessness and are being supported by the charity. In the last year we worked with 129 children, from birth to age 18.
While our family centres provide a safe, stable place to stay much of the support provided focuses on the parent’s circumstances. We saw the need for specific, specialist support for the children and young people and developed the project with funding from Children In Need. The effect of homelessness on children can sometimes be overlooked, but we know it can limit their opportunities to just be a child and live in a world where they have stability, routine, are carefree and able to grow, develop and have hope for the future.
All the children have experienced homelessness which can affect their well-being, resulting in a lack of self-esteem and confidence, stress, instability and loss of friends. Many of the children have had their education disrupted as a result of upheaval. Some have had difficult, traumatic experiences including domestic abuse, violence, arson, criminal activity of a family member, having a parent who has mental health and or substance misuse issues, death of a loved one as well as the children of refugee families who have witnessed war and destruction.
Our key areas of support are education and development, health and wellbeing; and involvement in meaningful activities within the community. We ensure children are in education, attend school regularly and receiving the right support for their needs. We organise regular group and individual activities to promote wellbeing, including yoga and mindfulness, drama and dance and interactive play. We also help children reconnect with old friends make new friends and join activities and groups local to them.
Many of the children are on a journey dealing with past and present experiences and struggling to find ways to express themselves. These experiences can influence the ways in which the child develops. We do a lot of work with understanding Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) and how the child that presents today can be struggling in their environment. We ask “What has happened to you” rather than “What is wrong with you” and we give children the tools and strategies to help cope with their situation and most importantly enjoy their childhoods.
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