Most of us never predicted a pandemic. Just as most of us never anticipate being homeless. With COVID cases increasing, a fire broke out in the house next door to mine. In mere seconds, a small spark grew into a massive fire. The urgency to get out of the house with my family overcame any rational thought to gather anything important, necessary, or of value.
That blaze sparked something in me. I had just started my new role as Deputy Director with Playtime, and it was as if my sense of purpose was reaffirmed. I felt it as I looked at my family (six children and my mom), standing outside in the dark, awaiting firefighters, looking scared, some barefoot, and holding each other. In that moment, I realized we are all only a few seconds away from homelessness, whether through fire, layoff, violence, or any multitude of reasons.
Though we did not have all of our things, we had each other.
As we waited for firefighters to arrive, there was a sense of community—with strangers offering to help us, even during a pandemic—that felt so genuine and comforting in the midst of this acute stress. That sense of safety and community, even for such a short period of time, was all that mattered.
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. Families who have experienced Playtime know that we’ve got their backs. When children see our logo or Play Ranger t-shirts, they light up because Playtime sparks joy in them. They know that even if only for a short period of time, they will experience safe, nurturing connections, and fun.
Loss, COVID, and new normals of social distancing, virtual school, and face coverings are all adding layers to existing trauma in many of our children. It is Playtime’s charge to help reduce those negative effects by providing play opportunities. Children need increased opportunities to simply be children and to play, which helps build resiliency during this challenging time.
My family was fortunate that our home suffered only smoke damage, and we could return that night. After the fire was put out, everyone was relieved, and the children, in typical fashion, eagerly wanted to play. So, let’s make play happen!
Please support our goal to reach $6,000 to get the chance to win a grant of up to $100,000 as part of the “A Community Thrives” program, sponsored by the USA TODAY NETWORK, to launch play programming at the Rolark short-term family shelter in Ward 8.
Thank you for helping us build a safe community for families experiencing homelessness.