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Playtime Updates

Check out our latest updates on what's happening at Playtime:

For two-and-a-half years, Kamari Felton was part of Playtime Project’s Teen Program at the now-closed DC General homeless shelter. We spoke with him just as he was getting ready to head off to his freshman year at Frostburg State University about his difficult journey to reach this major achievement.

Playtime Project just wrapped up two exciting weeks of summer camp, serving 32 children in our Washington, DC and Prince George’s County programs. Looking back, it's gratifying to see what the children have taken away from the experience. Here’s a snapshot of some of the many benefits we witnessed during Playtime’s Summer Camp last month.

In 2014, 8-year-old Relisha Rudd went missing from the now-closed DC General Family Shelter. She is still missing to this day. Systemic failures at multiple levels made this case a high-profile example of how too many children, particularly Black and brown children living with housing insecurity, fall through the cracks. July 11th has been designated Relisha Rudd Remembrance Day with the hope that she will be found. This year, she would be 17 years old.

In the summer of 2020, the COVID pandemic suddenly changed the way nonprofits, including Playtime Project, could deliver services. With our programming being so grounded in physical proximity, we were faced with a huge challenge – how to continue delivering consistent, quality play experiences to children experiencing housing insecurity who could no longer gather together to play. PlayKits became one of the solutions to this problem.

Playtime Project spoke with three of our Play Rangers who volunteer along with seven other University of Maryland Psychology Department students. Read about their experiences as volunteers.

During the first week of April, Playtime Project held its first week-long Spring Break Camp serving children experiencing housing insecurity in Prince George's County. We sat down with our Prince George’s County Program Manager, Bryanna Beamer, to find out more.

For twenty years, Homeless Children’s Playtime Project has brought play to children experiencing family housing insecurity. On this 20th anniversary, Playtime Project is evolving with the landscape of housing insecurity, and our updated name and mission statement reflect that.

Meet Jason Wucinski, longtime Playtime Project volunteer. We interviewed Jason about his work with Playtime and what drives him to dedicate his time to providing meaningful play opportunities for children experiencing housing insecurity in the Washington DC area.

Inclusive environments allow children from all backgrounds to feel safe, and the ability to express oneself freely is essential for self-confidence. A month and a half into 2023 programming, we’re observing the children feel the safety of Playtime's physical boundaries—whether it’s a playroom, a school auditorium, or a conference space. In large part, this is due to the positive energy and warmth that our staff and volunteers bring to each site, through their attitudes and activities, as well as the accepting spirit of the children who play with us. Keep reading for their stories.

As we head into 2023, Playtime celebrates 20 years of ensuring children have access to the healing power of play, regardless of their housing status. Can you believe it?  

If you have been with us from the start, you will remember an organization assembled with a small-but-mighty band of volunteers ready to serve. Through the years, our volunteer numbers have grown, staff were brought on, and programs were added and adapted, all to expand our reach and impact. We’ve weathered the changing landscapes of family homelessness, the ongoing pandemic, and systemic injustices that create barriers to a family’s safety and stability. Though the world around us will continue to shift and change, as we look ahead to our 20th year, one thing remains the same: our commitment to play and to our families. We know that play is essential in developing strong, resilient, self-assured kids. In 2023, we will focus on maintaining our excellent play programs, as well as helping our children and families achieve success beyond the shelter.  

Playtime aims to create an inclusive environment for all children, no matter their developmental stage or special needs. Staff and volunteers were and are committed to ensuring Thomas, and other children like him, are able and comfortable participating in all activities in the playroom. We know that play helps children understand the world around them and heals them from stress, anxiety, and trauma. We also know that play allows children to explore new themes, express different emotions, problem-solve, develop social skills, and ignite creativity.  

After almost four years at Playtime, leaving is bittersweet, and I am overcome by a sense of gratitude. I have had the honor of watching the Playtime community—YOU, Playtime’s staff and volunteers, our board, partners across the region—come together and ensure children experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity continue to be served under the most extreme circumstances. The network of caring individuals, in all their various work, family, and neighborhood groups, is what makes Playtime possible. Thank you for your inspiring generosity. 

Playtime’s dynamic curriculum engages with and builds off children’s current interests, with the goal of strengthening three outcomes for children aligned with resilience: increasing their problem-solving skills, social-emotional learning skills, and optimism for the future.  

Our goal is to be a reliable presence for Playtime children and families, especially during times of high need, like back-to-school time. Playtime’s support extends beyond the playrooms, and we could not pilot new community-based programs like “Pop-Up” Family Playtime events and Playtime Summer Camp without the support of our generous community.

Playtime’s community-based Summer Camp provides a continuum of care for Playtime children. Children are now able to feel the consistent presence and support of Playtime staff and volunteers both inside the shelter and out in the community.

Playtime is fortunate to have over 150 volunteers who dedicate their time to our weekly programs. They show up to our playrooms every week to support positive emotional development for one of the most vulnerable populations in the District and Prince George’s County. Our volunteers make a weekly commitment to running one of our six play programs at our partner sites, and we could not provide Playtime without them.

It’s always good news when families move out of shelters and into their own homes, but it is important to recognize the sense of community families create while living in transitional spaces. Having access to coordinated case management and circles of support is essential to making sure families have allies during this transition period.

Playtime is committed to supporting families and their mental health.

Playtime testified at the DC Department of Human Services budget hearing before the D.C. City Council. We asked council members to focus on prevention of the cycle of family homelessness in D.C.’s homeless services continuum. The city must provide comprehensive case management for children who have experienced homelessness, increasing their access to essential education, health, and basic services, and decreasing their chances of experiencing homelessness as older youth or adults.

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed our society in profound ways, often exacerbating social and economic inequalities in its wake. While students have demonstrated resiliency and tenacity to continue their education throughout the pandemic, many parents are concerned about COVID learning loss and pandemic school push-out.

Playtime's curriculum is a research-based “living” framework that adapts to meet our children’s needs. Meet Lan Nguyen, our curriculum and impact specialist, who is responsible for implementing Playtime's dynamic curriculum.

Playtime was able to make an impact by serving 315 children and their families in 2021 because of you. The outpouring of support from so many of you was both overwhelming and humbling.

When the landscape of family homelessness began to change in the District of Columbia, Playtime knew we had to adapt in order to continue to follow the children wherever they are. As families facing housing insecurity are often pushed out of expensive D.C. to surrounding suburbs, one of the most logical places for Playtime to expand to was next door Prince George's County, Maryland.  

With Playtime’s families and partners, our long-term goal is to break the cycle of family homelessness, making sure all children have the opportunity to play, learn, and grow in safe spaces.

I will miss the smiles, the giggles, and countless inquisitive faces peering back at me through the camera’s lens. Each picture brings back memories of the children posing, frowning, grinning, or completely oblivious to the camera.

Starting September, Playtime will become a partner with J.C. Nalle Elementary School in Ward 7 to provide play programming and resources twice a week!

Homelessness never takes a vacation and going on a trip is a luxury most families we serve cannot afford. That’s why Playtime works to create extra-special experiences for children living in shelters.

Returning to in-person play this spring was a joy not only to us but to many of our volunteers, whose commitment is deeply appreciated.

Playtime has formed two exciting new partnerships to broaden Playtime’s services across the region.

Playtime has evolved with the changing landscape of homelessness in our effort to meet the needs of families living in shelter across Washington, D.C. And this month is no exception.

Join us for our #DidUPlay2day spring campaign to help Playtime bring play to more children living in shelters across the District.

When Playtime advocates for “service-rich environments” inside shelter settings, we mean including services for children whose needs deserve prioritization.

Playtime's mission has grown to not only provide trauma-informed play activities, but to advocate for the hundreds of children who cycle through the city’s homelessness network.

Playtime’s focus is always on how to better serve our children and families. With this in mind, we recently made the difficult decision to restructure at the management level to ensure fiscal responsibility and continued support of our mission.

The outpouring of support from so many of you was both overwhelming and humbling. You allowed us to fulfill our mission in new ways.

Your ongoing support gives children like Hanif, Ebony, and Christi a supportive and safe space to play for the holidays and the year ahead.

Through persistence and creativity, Playtime makes a difference for each child by forming a strong connection with them and tailoring play activities to fit their needs. Building these relationships is key to assessing how best to help our Playtime children and families.

During this time of social distancing and as we approach the giving season, hosting a virtual event is an ideal way to rally your network of family, friends, coworkers, clients, and more to support a local cause close to your heart. 

Creating a safe community is what Playtime does—we give children and families a sense of comfort and belonging through a difficult, scary, and traumatic time.

When the movie Black Panther was released in February 2018, starring Chadwick Boseman in the lead role, Playtime took 30 preteens and teens to see the film, and the kids were beyond excited!

Playtime recently learned that the D.C. Department of Human Services (DHS) will be ending its contract at the end of this month with the Days Inn on New York Avenue as an emergency overflow shelter for families. How does this affect Playtime?

African Americans make up 13% of the general population but more than 40% of the homeless population. And in D.C., 95% of parents experiencing homelessness are Black. Consequently, almost all of the children Playtime serves are Black. The need for more Black role models in our playrooms is crucial.

As a direct service organization, it’s our role to be there for the families and community we serve, and we know that play presents a powerful healing mechanism for children.

We must continue to innovate, to advocate, and meet concrete needs so families get the resources they need and more children can play despite the stress of homelessness, COVID-19, and ongoing racial injustice.

We owe it to the children and families we serve to stand up and show up to the civil rights struggle of our time, so the promise of freedom, justice, and equality in our nation can truly be realized.

With your support we will continue to be there for the families that need us the most in our city. Happy #GivingTuesdayNOW!

Playtime has opted to make the spring edition of The Play Times, our quarterly print newsletter, available online instead of mailing it to our generous donors.

Though the world has suddenly changed, I’m proud of how our volunteers, supporters, board, and staff have stepped up to adapt to ensure children keep playing, and that parents will continue to get the support they need to weather this pandemic.

The city’s new short-term family housing (STFH) sites create a cozier atmosphere, but they lack designated, spacious indoor play areas for children. Puzzles, block construction, art projects, dress up, dancing and indoor basketball takes space. Conflict can arise when kids try to play freely in close quarters.