As tomorrow concludes Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week (HHAW), we are highlighting two Daymaker nonprofit partners who are not only addressing issues of homelessness in their local communities, but are also educating the broader public about the systemic barriers to ensuring safe housing for all people.
HHAW is held each year the week before Thanksgiving as a call to collective action around the systemic infrastructure that enables homelessness to exist. HHAW offers the chance to contribute to a national social movement to eradicate the root causes of homelessness. According to research shared by the Children's Defense Fund,
In response to this call to collective action, our VP of Products & Storytelling, Dr. Ari, interviewed JayCee Migura at The SAFE Alliance in Austin, Texas, and Denisee Sierra at Sun Valley Youth Center in Sun Valley, Colorado. (Click here to watch the interview with Denisee.) Both nonprofits have multiple programs that focus on the particular needs of children and youth.
Sun Valley Youth Center's mission is to empower youth, families, and community for their greatest potential. Currently, Sun Valley is undergoing redevelopment. The uncertainty and trauma created from displacement has had a big impact on their families. Acknowledging the criticality of stability for children and youth, Desiree explains that,
"[The older kids] live all over Colorado and they still make a way to come here... as a community, as a center that's been the only thing they have that's stable, we've been able to help them talk through that stuff, and to them it feels alot smoother now. It's still a hardship for them, but also knowing that they can come here and it hasn't changed from this whole redevelopment. I think they like being able to come here and be themselves and not worry about the space changing."
The SAFE Alliance exists to stop abuse for everyone by serving the survivors of child abuse, sexual assault and exploitation, and domestic violence. Through SAFE’s housing programs, they provide ongoing safety and stability to families and individuals of all genders. Like Desiree, JayCee also describes the spaces they have designed with the wellbeing of children and youth in mind,
"We do have a space at the children's shelter... a bunch of couches, a bunch of microwaves - food, the fridge is packed with food. Kids just come and chill, take a nap on the couch, play video games, talk to each other, talk to their mentor... We also have a cares program where we help trafficked adults and we have a house where they are allowed to stay also, and a drop-in center as well."
Both Desiree and JayCee happily spoke to the significance of their respective nonprofit's partnership with Daymaker. Desiree commented on the organizational impact by describing the cultural shift in their library resources:
"Our library was very small, but had a bunch of books that they couldn't relate to. And one of the things that Daymaker did was provide books that they were able to relate to because there were kids of color on there, girls with hijabs... one of our kids would say, 'This kid doesn't look like me, this kid is white.' So, I think it brought a different kind of culture into our library.
JayCee shared an anecdote about the individual impact experienced by two girls in their program,
"When we got the back-to-school packages from Daymaker, one of the case managers took the backpacks out to a home, and the little girls were so excited to get earbuds... So, then I went out to their house in the beginning of November, and those little girls can sing. Like, can SING. And both of them had their earbuds in and were walking in and out the house playing and singing. It was the best. It was the best!"
We hope that you will receive this information as an invitation to educate yourself and your community about the root causes of housing insecurity, homelessness, and hunger. We also invite you to augment the urgent work of our nonprofit network by donating to the holiday giving campaign as we strive to provide play-based materials that sustain joy, wonder, and creativity for entire families and their communities.