Trauma Informed Care as a Framework for Helping Individuals Experiencing Homelessness

Homelessness and Racism Among Chronic Stressors that are Trauma Causing Experiences

Trauma Informed Care can be helpful framework for providing counseling to individuals who have experienced trauma including trauma as a result of chronic stressors such as racism, food insecurity, substance abuse in family, and homelessness.

St. Francis Counseling Service, located in Long Beach Township, New Jersey, provides among other services, Trauma Informed Care. The agency recently gave a presentation at the Ocean County Continuum of Care (CoC) meeting. St. Francis Counseling Service provides counseling services for Southern Ocean County, New Jersey and serves victims of crime throughout Ocean County.

Case Western Reserve University’s Center for Evidence-Based Practices shares resources around Trauma-Informed Care and Transforming Culture, Policy & Practice of organizations.

The presenters shared useful information about the Confidential Sexual Violence Advocacy that they provide. There is not statute of limitations on when victims of sexual assault can report the assault to the police. But any evidence from an assault does need to be collected within 5 days of the assault. Something to keep in mind is that sexual assault can trigger mental illness in individuals. Any police department, hospital or hotline can activate St Francis’ Counseling Service’s counseling team.

A recent trend is that the St Francis is seeing victims of trafficking that are also involved in the opioid crisis. Related to trafficking, the age of consent in New Jersey is 16.

Trauma is defined as a deeply distressing or disturbing experience. These experiences can include abuse, loss and chronic stressors including racism. The presenters reminded the CoC audience that trauma effects everyone differently and that it is important to know the signs of trauma.

Individuals who have experienced trauma are more likely to be homeless and homelessness itself is a chronic stressor that can cause trauma. Racism is another chronic stressor and what does this mean for the work to end homelessness in New Jersey where there are racial lines among in the population experiencing homelessness.

NJCounts 2019 found that on the night of January 22, 2019, a total of 8,864 men, women and children in 6,748 households were identified as experiencing homelessness in the state of New Jersey. This was an overall decrease in the number of men, women and children experiencing homelessness with of 439 persons (5%) identified in 2019 from the number of persons identified in 2018.

Disparities along racial lines in the population experiencing homelessness are seen in a number of areas. NJCounts 2019 found persons identifying as Black or African American made up the majority of sheltered persons, 3,678 persons (51.5%), and unsheltered persons, 698 persons (49.4%), identified in the Point-in-Time count.

In New Jersey, according to NJCounts 2019, persons identifying as Black or African American are overrepresented in the population experiencing homelessness and living below the poverty level. While 13% of the general population, persons identifying as Black or African American are 24% of the population in poverty and 49.4% of the population experiencing homelessness.

According to the Trauma Informed Care project, Trauma Informed Care is an organization structure and treatment framework that involves understanding, recognizing, and responding to the effects of all types of trauma. Trauma Informed Care also emphasizes physical, psychological and emotional safety for both consumers and providers, and helps survivors rebuild a sense of control and empowerment.

Providing trauma informed care involved helping the individual who has experienced trauma to restore control and empowerment. Individuals can restore their ability to make their own choices in life. While trauma is something that indivdiuals may never get over, trauma informed care can help provide the skills that will help them to move in with their lives.

For more information about St. Francis Counseling Center, please call 609-494-1554.