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Providing Safe Space for Youth Experiencing Homelessness

JV AmeriCorps member Hannah Eby (Aloha, OR ’16-17) served with Community Action at the Hillsboro Family Shelter. In our latest AmeriCorps blog, Hannah reflects on her service year and her role in assisting children and teens experiencing homelessness.

The JVC Northwest AmeriCorps Program makes it possible for the Family Shelter in Hillsboro to have a Children’s Specialist, a role through which I helped make the shelter a safe space for children and teens to process their situation, get homework support, and have fun time to just be kids. There are a couple  stories that stick out in my mind which demonstrate the impact of this JV AmeriCorps placement.

Hannah created a sensory room for children as a Capacity Building Project

One three-year-old boy in particular showed signs of chronic stress and trauma upon his arrival to the shelter. Whenever staff would walk near his room, he would cry and ask if we were taking his room away. He didn’t know how to play with the other kids, avoided people, and became aggressive over even the smallest disturbance. Sometimes he would build houses and violently destroy them over and over, becoming very upset and clearly processing previous trauma. However, because the shelter had a Children’s Specialist, I was able to work with him specifically on processing his feelings and building safe relationships. Every day, we would start with a comforting routine, gradually introducing him to more interactive play with me and the other children during Toddler Time. Parent-Child Playtime was an opportunity for me to encourage new ways of bonding between him and his parents. By the end of his stay, the three-year-old was happier, knew how to control his aggressive behavior, and felt comfortable with staff and the other children. His parents often brought him back to visit me and other staff, and he was always very excited and happy to see us, demonstrating his growing ability to form healthy relationships.

Hannah (second from left) and her Aloha community mates

Another story that sticks with me is about a 17-year-old girl who loved music. She had grown up playing violin, but when she and her mom started living in a car, she was no longer able to play music. Over time, she forgot how to read music and therefore couldn’t join the orchestra at her school. However, when they moved into the shelter, I was able to set aside some time each day to play music with her and re-teach her how to read music. Not only did she improve enough to be able to join her school orchestra, but her confidence soared. Her mother, who also seemed to lack confidence and struggled with mental health issues, was inspired by her daughter’s improvement and asked to learn ukulele from me. I taught her ukulele, and she often told me that her half-hour ukulele sessions were the best part of her day and gave her something to look forward to. They worked together to learn a holiday song together on violin and ukulele, and this provided family bonding and pride. They eventually moved into housing and visited to say that they continued playing music and that it was an important part of their lives.

These are only two of countless stories that come to mind when reflecting over my AmeriCorps year. Without the JVC Northwest AmeriCorps Program, the Family Shelter would not have someone working specifically with the kids to provide for their needs and help them feel confident and connected to others. This JVC Northwest AmeriCorps role is absolutely vital for children and teens processing various traumatic experiences associated with homelessness.

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Upcoming Virtual Events

Get to Know JVC Northwest

Tuesday, September 28 | 7:00pm ET/4:00pm PT 

Join us to learn all the basics about a year of service in the Pacific Northwest, including where you can serve, what you might do, and how to apply. Our Recruiter, Zayna, will also share her experience as a JV in both Alaska and Montana. Finally, we’ll open it up for an informal Q+A. 

How to Make Your Application Stand Out

Wednesday, October 6 | 6:00pm ET/3:00pm PT

How can you position yourself to be a strong candidate for JVC Northwest? We’ll share tips and tricks to help you navigate the application, interview, matching, and placement process. We’ll also leave plenty of time for Q+A.  

Zayna Abusada

(She/her/hers)
JVC Northwest Recruiter

Zayna Abusada (Ashland, MT ’17-18, Anchorage, AK ’18-19) was most recently a JV in south-central Alaska serving with immigrant and refugee English-Language learners as the Academy for Citizenship and Civics Support Specialist with the Alaska Literacy Program (ALP) in Anchorage. Zayna first served with Indigenous students on the Northern Cheyenne and Crow Reservations. Originally from Iowa City, Iowa, Zayna went on to earn her undergraduate degree in History and Theological Studies with a minor in Middle Eastern Studies at Saint Louis University.

Catch Zayna at an Event Near You!

September

9/8/2021Saint Mary’s College (IN)VirtualFall Career Fair
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9/17/2021Creighton UniversityVirtualFall Career Fair
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9/20/2021University of Wisconsin-MadisonIn PersonPublic Service Fair
9/21/2021Whitman CollegeVirtualCareer & Internship Fair
9/21/2021University of San FranciscoVirtualCareer Premiere: Service Careers
9/22/2021Le Moyne CollegeVirtualFall Job and Internship Fair
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9/23/2021University of IowaIn PersonHelping, Health, & Public Service Industry Career Fair
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9/29/2021Santa Clara UniversityVirtualFall Career Fair Bash
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9/29/2021DePaul UniversityVirtualFall Career Fair (Day 1 Only)
9/30/2021Providence CollegeVirtualFall Career Expo
9/30/2021Saint Martin’s UniversityVirtualInternship & Service Fair

October

10/5/2021Pepperdine UniversityVirtualCareers with Social Impact Fair
10/6/2021Saint Mary’s College (CA)VirtualCareer & Internship Fair
10/7/2021Loyola New Orleans/UNOVirtualJoint Fall Job & Internship Fair
10/7/2021Spring Hill CollegeVirtualBadger Career Expo Day 2
10/13/2021Gonzaga UniversityIn PersonPost Grad Service Fair
10/13/2021Ohio UniversityVirtualGovernment, Nonprofit, and Service Fair
10/16/2021Ignatian Family Teach-InVirtualBreakout Session and Exhibiting
10/18/2021University of DaytonVirtualBeyond UD Fair: Post Graduate Volunteer Programs