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The Importance of Play in the Life of a Homeless Child

When a child is displaced, their world is suddenly turned upside down. Familiar surroundings and faces are gone which can lead to feelings of fear and insecurity.

Here at New Community Harmony House, a transitional housing facility for homeless families located in Newark New Jersey, we recognize that children’s trauma needs to be addressed forthrightly and on their level. In addition to connecting families to the services of our Family Service Bureau which offers services such as counseling and therapy, our staff of professionals also recognize the importance of play.

Despite the trauma of their homelessness, it is important that children be allowed to still be children. They need socialization with other children and to be able to play. Through Second Chance Toys, children at Harmony House have been afforded the opportunity to do just that with donations of like-new toys including vanity sets, trucks and kitchen sets. They pretend and their vivid imaginations take them far away to places that seem far removed from the pressing problems their families may be facing.

Whether it’s coloring a picture or playing with a favorite toy, play becomes essential for a homeless child trying to deal with the loss of perhaps the only home they ever knew. Even the after-school program at Harmony House recognizes the importance of play, providing not only assistance with home work, but a time for children to just play and socialize. Some choose board games, while others gravitate to more action-packed activities like the Foosball table. The important thing is that they are playing, and play makes a world of difference.

Author: Diane Young-Garrett, Administrator of New Community Harmony House