There is no instant fix for families facing homelessness. It takes time, care, a thoughtful plan, and patience to address homelessness and its underlying causes. At Wellspring it happens step-by-step. It’s a journey.
With this in mind, we understand how vital every interaction with our clients is. Routinely, some of those first interactions happen in the Intake Room of our Early Learning Center (ELC).
Our ELC offers specialized care for children (and their families) that are experiencing the effects of homelessness and other traumatic situations. King County families living in a shelter or transitional housing can enroll their child in the ELC. Here, children can thrive in a learning environment to help prepare them for success in kindergarten and beyond. The ELC provides stability—a place where each child is safe to explore, learn, and grow.
But before a child starts in the ELC, we need to take that first step with the family.
Caregivers meet with one of the ELC’s Family Support Specialists to discuss their background, their story, their children’s developmental needs, and to identify any barriers to overcome. It’s a time to understand the family’s needs and to explore how Wellspring can help.
It’s a positive discussion, but often a hard one. Many families have experienced trauma, coming from backgrounds which include domestic violence, addiction, mental health concerns, and homelessness. Talking about those experiences can be deeply personal and emotional.
Sitting down with a stranger to talk over our problems would be hard for most of us—let alone when we’re at our most vulnerable.
For that reason, the ELC’s staff understand the importance of making our Intake Room as comfortable as possible to help families relax and open up. As our Family Support Specialist Naomi puts it, “To have those personal discussions, the room needs to feel warm and welcoming.”
Long-time ELC donor Samuel Taylor and his friend, Bryan Nelson, stepped up to the challenge. They were undaunted by the task of bringing a feeling of warmth to a dark, windowless room with a cold, concrete floor. With experience refurbishing houses, the work came naturally to Samuel. He truly believed the space should feel like it was part of someone’s home.
Much like the families that meet in the room, Samuel needed a plan. He reached out to friends for help and advice. Then—over one long day--he and Bryan set to work. New furniture and textiles transformed the room into a place that feels safe and welcoming for children and parents. A comfortable room to help build trust and provide a space to be vulnerable.
Yes, these were great cosmetic changes! But, there was more. In addition to the new paint and furnishings, Samuel and Bryan provided new toys for the children to occupy themselves during these meetings, which can last between two and four hours.
When Family Support Specialist Ty first used the newly made-over room to meet with a parent, she saw an immediate effect. The mother was a lot more open and calm. Her child was happy--tearing open the new boxes of Lego provided by Samuel and Bryan.
Those first conversations are still tough, but families can now feel more comfortable in a warmer, more welcoming space as they take that first important step of telling their story to prepare their children for success in the Early Learning Center and beyond.