Stories & Insights

Making Summer a Little Brighter: Creating Joy for Kids in Homeless Shelters

For kids staying in a homeless shelter, summer doesn't always feel like vacation.

July 26, 2023

Most kids look forward to carefree summer days, trips to the beach, camping, ice cream cones and the freedom to explore. But for kids staying in a homeless shelter, summer can sometimes feel like anything but a vacation.

That’s why Crossroads Rhode Island, the state’s leading provider of housing and supportive services for those experiencing homelessness, works hard to create structure and moments of joy for kids whose worlds have literally been turned upside down.

Limited Personal Space

Imagine living in a single room—with your entire family. There’s no privacy. No personal space. You miss your old room, your friends and you don’t know how long you’re going to be there.

“That’s what life is like for kids who are staying in shelter while we work to find them a new place to call home,” says Ashley Rogers, MSW, Crossroads’ Director of Family and Domestic Violence Shelter Services.

Summer is a Busy Time for Family Shelters

According to Rogers, Crossroads Family Shelter is also busier than normal during the summer. “We have more than 30 children here during the day now who would otherwise be in school,” she explains.

And with family homelessness up 15 percent in Rhode Island since last year, the shelter is always at capacity, with more and more families reaching out for help every day.

Lack of Normalcy

“In some ways, the harsh reality of homelessness hits a little harder for these kids during the summer, “says Rogers. “School provides a sense of normalcy, routine and temporary escape from their living situation, and interaction with their peers helps them forget, even if for just a little while, about their circumstances.”

Creating Intentional Structure

To help fill the void, Rogers and her team work hard to organize special activities for the kids, such as game nights, movie nights and pizza parties. Many children rely on school for these meals during the school year, so when school is out Crossroads also steps in to make sure that these children do not go hungry.

Moments of Joy

Understanding the importance of making life a little brighter for the children in their care, Rogers and her team organize events like Family Fun Day. Recently held at a nearby park, this year’s event featured an obstacle course, coloring contest, lunch and an ice cream truck.

“The kids had a blast,” says Rogers. “It was great to see the smiles on their faces and to see kids just being kids without all the heaviness of being homeless.”

While summer may not always feel like a holiday for kids in homeless shelters, Crossroads strives to make it a little brighter by providing structure, healthy meals and most importantly, fun. By supporting these children during such a challenging time, Crossroads helps them find hope and happiness amidst uncertainty, helping to ensure that every child, regardless of their housing status, experiences the joy and wonder of childhood.

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