Family Promise Blog


Everyone has their own battles to fight but when it is a child fighting, the results are often more profound. When families experience homelessness, the dramatic lifestyle changes that children go through can be a catalyst for both good and bad. Problems with addiction, education, and motivation can often stem from early childhood struggles. Helping kids respond and bounce back from potentially destructive events is something to support and foster, ideally as early as possible.

Resilience is one’s ability to rebound from stress, failure, adversity, challenges, or even trauma. And, there is good news – it is not something that kids either have or don’t have, it is a skill that can be developed as they grow, even into adulthood. Teaching kids to be resilient allows them to reach for goals and not be afraid of falling short. By mitigating the struggles of experiencing homelessness, children can learn to take healthy, smart risks to advance their lives.

Anxiety and depression are more prevalent in children today due to everything seen in the news from politics and climate change to a global pandemic, local community struggles and more. Information overload can often be the source of mental and behavioral health stress, and should be cared for with a new awareness and new tactics.¹

What can help? Getting outside and moving can always help take the mind off of discomfort. Some may not take as kindly to physical exertion, but moderate activity in greenspaces is healthy for a developing mind. If you are in a child’s life who is experiencing homelessness, be that committed relationship in their lives. That connection will provide support and stability for them to lean on and grow from. In the debate between nature and nurture, if the nature side has fallen short, the nurture side can pick up the slack and help ensure healthy development.²

Johnathan was roughly 9 years old when he went through the Family Promise program, but is now 16 years old. He reflected, “I cannot remember her name but she was the woman that sat up front at the old Day Center in Lemoyne. She and I would talk about everything a 9-year-old could talk about, and she always had a smile on her face when we came in. My experience with Family Promise is that you should never take anything for granted and that you should always work hard for what you want.”

Kids need to learn problem solving, and if the home they are a part of cannot provide this, it is good to seek outside help to keep growing and learning how to adapt in an uncomfortable and imperfect environment. It is not only the kids learning how to be resilient, but the adults as well, and being a good example to the younger ones helps teach resilience. It is often said that ‘knowledge is power’, and to that end, FPHCR has several programs designed to help children improve resiliency and avoid making early mistakes that could create difficulty in adulthood. These classes range from budgeting and job searching to social networking and skill workshops.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

- Victor Frankl

Resiliency is a skill that can often be neglected, but as individuals go through tough times whether they know it or not, that skill is being tested and refined – and determines how well they bounce back. Being aware of ways to build those skills and improve the stress response is a good place to start, along with reaching out for assistance and helpful resources. FPHCR can lend a knowledgeable hand during your unique struggles, and is committed to getting you moving in a positive direction. While we cannot often control what happens to us, our power is in knowing that we can build the skills that help us bounce back quicker and stronger during the toughest of times.

¹; Resilience in Children – Strategies to Strengthen Your Kids

² Harvard University Center on the Developing Child; Key Concepts on Resilience

If you or someone you know are in need of shelter, contact Family Promise of the Harrisburg Capital Region. Please call (717) 737-1100 or start the application process online here.

To volunteer or donate, please click HERE

  • Family Promise HCR

Stress comes up a lot in today’s world, but it is a very broad term that can be tough to define and even harder to understand. It has several interpretations and an unlimited number of sources. Sometimes stress is physical, but oftentimes, it can go unseen and be psychological.

• Physical – e.g., noise, crowding, pollution, illness, disability, lack of shelter

• Psychological – e.g., fear, frustration, anger, worry

While experiencing homelessness, stress generates along many of these pathways and may not be treated and cared for equally. Mental stress from an uncertain future can be just as destructive as the physical burden of losing a home, and it’s no surprise that mental well-being has been shown to improve while living in a healthy environment. There are some factors in our lives that we are not in control of, so leaning into the ones we can control is a good place to start looking for help.

Stress can stem from so many different places that there is no universal cure, but being aware of the sources and the consequences of chronic stress may assist with self-help. Being exposed to certain sources of stress is unimaginable to some of us, but can be a daily struggle to those experiencing homelessness. One place to start looking at managing stress is the 4 A’s:¹

Avoid – plan out your days and take control of your surroundings; avoid people who bother you, learn to say ‘no’, and ditch part of your to-do list

Alter – understand your limits and voice desired changes; respectfully ask others to change their behavior, communicate your feelings openly, manage your time more effectively, and state your limits in advance

Accept – identify changes that aren’t possible; talk with someone, forgive, practice positive self-talk, and learn from your mistakes

Adapt – change your expectations to fit each day’s stressors; adjust your standards, practice negative ‘thought-stopping’, look at your situation from a new viewpoint, adopt a positive mantra, create a list of all the things that bring you joy, and focus on the big picture

When stress settles in, you might feel alone and short on hope – but remember that many individuals have gone through similar life events and have gotten back on their feet with a strong commitment to self-help, and the assistance of organizations like Family Promise.

“Being at Family Promise gave me a sense of relief because it was a safe place for my children and I when we were displaced from our home. They have endless amounts of resources and the staff gave me a lot of motivation to succeed. I am so very grateful for their program. I do not know where my 3 daughters and I would be today if were not able to attend Family Promise.”

-Stephanie, FPHCR graduate

Just like looking out for signs of stress, we can help you look out for potential warning signs of homelessness through case management, community resources, and skill-building classes – all intended to help families maintain a stable home. However, if you’re past the stage of prevention, our rotational emergency shelter program and warm hospitality are the cornerstones of our Family Promise model. Keeping the family together is a priority because, without a place to call your own, you need people to call you theirs.

¹; Health Information, Healthy Lifestyle: Stress Management

If you or someone you know is in need of shelter, contact Family Promise of the Harrisburg Capital Region. Please call (717) 737-1100 or start the application process online here.

To volunteer or donate, please visit here .

Bells are ringing, yellow buses are rolling, and parents are cheering again. Many of our students have gone Back-to-School! With the pandemic and a school year like no other, even students were more excited to return to school this year. Anticipation was higher than ever.

Students of all ages asked that most important question. What will I wear on the first day? Shopping was high on the agenda. Time for new clothes. New shoes. Probably, new backpacks. Definitely, lots of school supplies and any trendy items ensuring the envy of other classmates. Once enrolled and school began, there was even more to look forward to; new teachers, new schedules and classes, and a flurry of activities. Who wouldn’t be excited? Unfortunately, there were some students whose first day jitters were for very different reasons. Those are the students experiencing homelessness. Often when we think of the homeless population, we picture tattered adults huddling on the streets. Most likely our images don’t include children. But they are out there and are among the many students who have returned to school.

These students are far from the typical, smiling students we picture running out the door, with arms loaded, to the neighborhood bus stop. For the student experiencing homelessness, that picture is clouded and challenging. Not an image we like to carry, but the reality is that there are students who live on the streets, in vehicles, and in shelters. Imagine what their anticipation of school might have been? The questions and concerns on their minds are likely very different from other students. Where will I go to school this year? How will I get to school? Am I enrolled? What will I put for my address and phone number? Do I have any clean clothes?

Students are the innocents. They have no control over the circumstances of where they are or where they live, but the impact of being homeless will affect all aspects of their lives.

Imagine the domino effect of the following: frequent changes of schools, lack of transportation, years riddled with absences, lack of sleep, disruptions in focus and concentration, a decline in studies and proficiency, and a looming dropout possibility. The picture painted is not a pretty one, but sadly can be the reality. And, in an era of remote or hybrid instruction, these students have the added vulnerability of not having a stable place to learn during the day, or having access to a computer or Wi-Fi. Under these conditions, it’s not hard to see the difficulties that homeless students face and how the physical, psychological, and emotional damage can take its toll. Likewise, there are stressors for their parents.

“I think as a parent in a shelter with school-aged children my main thought was if my kids were being treated any differently. Were they being made fun of because the kids on the bus would see them walk into a building that wasn’t their home?”, shared Stacey, a mother of 4, who experienced homelessness for about a year before connecting with Family Promise. “It’s difficult for parents when they cannot provide the school supplies that their kids may need. Kids LOVE to school shop, and when you are strapped for money, it’s hard to feel that same excitement.”

Simple logistics can become more difficult as well. As Stacey noted, “It was stressful making sure the kids were ready for school on time – as sometimes our host churches were farther away. Moving from host church to host church was a blessing but could also be a challenge because when the kids were in a new place they wanted to play and explore, not get ready for bed and school the next day.”

The number of students experiencing homelessness is often unreliable and under-counted. The most recent available numbers provided by the Pennsylvania Education Department to the U.S. Dept. of Education for the 2018-2019 school year identified 31,000 students, or 1.8% of all students, as homeless. These pre-Covid numbers represented a 37% increase from the 2013-2014 school year, even though overall enrollment declined by 1% during the same time period. Pennsylvania schools also identified the ratio of 10.1 students experiencing homelessness per 100 school-aged children in poverty.

Whatever the number of students, the more important thing is to know they are there, and that the population is rising. We need to be aware and keep alert for the students who find themselves in these unfortunate circumstances. School staffs, students, parents, neighbors, and communities are important in bringing an awareness and the resources to help and support these students.

All students want and deserve a good education. Meeting the needs of our students experiencing homelessness is the best way to reach that goal, and to create a welcoming and safe place for them as school bells ring again.

Along with resources at school, local offices, and food and shelter programs, the National Center for Homeless Education (NCHE) (800-308-2145) or can be of assistance.

If you or someone you know are in need of shelter, contact Family Promise of the Harrisburg Capital Region. Please call (717) 737-1100 or start the application process online here.

To volunteer or donate, please visit here.