The little girl looked around the room filled with new games, books, puzzles and blocks. “Will this be here tomorrow?” she asked.
“Yes, this is all staying here for you to play with for a long time,” answered Meghan Schafer, Playspace programs southeast region director for Horizons for Homeless Children.
On May 17, Horizons for Homeless Children (HHC), a nonprofit organization dedicated to enriching the lives of homeless children in Massachusetts, installed a Playspace (educational and recreational space) for children living at the Village at Cataumet, a family shelter in Bourne operated by Housing Assistance Corporation. The Playspace provides children at the shelter with a fun, safe and stimulating environment in which to learn, grow and play, and comes equipped with books, play equipment and art supplies.
“It’s so moving to see the kids enjoy it,” said Kaja Masdalen, a staff member at the Village at Cataumet. “The mix of toys gets their imagination going.”
“I love it. It’s wonderful,” said Latoyia, one of the mothers staying at the Village at Cataumet. “It’s a nice variety of toys for children of all ages. The children play well together and learn about sharing.”
With over 100,000 Massachusetts children experiencing homelessness, half under the age of six, family shelters are always filled with children. Just like young children living in homes, young homeless children need access to educational and recreational opportunities that allow them to develop their physical, social, emotional, and pre-academic skills.
HHC has previously installed Playspaces at two other HAC family shelters, Carriage House in Falmouth and Angel House in Hyannis. The new playspace is the second one at the Village at Cataumet. The first one was designed for children of school and preschool ages; the new one has toys and games for infants and toddlers.
The new Playspace is adjacent to the shared kitchen and dining room at the Village at Catuamet. “To have a place where the children can play while the parents are cooking is cozy and safe and good for everyone,” said Sarah Fujiwara, chief Playspace program officer for HHC.
HHC also recruits, trains, and places volunteers in the shelter Playspaces to supervise and engage the children in fun, educational play so that they can grow and develop, as all children should. More than 1,400 trained volunteers known as Playspace Activity Leaders (PALs) participate in educational play activities with children each week in approximately 140 family shelters in Massachusetts. This gives the parents a chance to take classes or take time for other personal needs.
Horizons for Homeless Children is touching the lives of more than 2,200 children each week in Massachusetts through the Playspace Programs. At HAC’s recent annual meeting, HHC was given the Human Services Partner Award.