“ Some really good practices for working with young families in shelter”

Through shelter visits feedback from trainings and staff and family interview, we’ve learned about some very interesting and creative ways shelter providers are promoting healthy minds, souls and bodies.  Some have incentives for completing goals others promote healthy parent/child attachment by providing reading time for moms and children.  I’ve compiled a list of what some programs are doing with their families.


  • Project Hope- Family reading room- This program has a part-time staff to work with young parents and their children to promote family reading time. Parents are recognized and rewarded for the amount of time and the number of books they read with their children.
  • Crittenton and Project Hope have on-site Adult Basic Education classes; residents in the shelter have priority although they have to go through the same enrollment and process as the general public. This is significant since there are usually long waitlists and limited slots for G.E.D. classes.
  • Revision House has the Urban Garden- Families not only learn about gardening, they also learn about Nutrition and healthy food choices. This practice recognizes the benefits of introducing Protective Factors that promote healthy nutrition. They reported that the program has impacted nutrition choices and promoted peer-to-peer supports. Families are sharing recipes and those with experience preparing fresh meals are partnering with other less experienced.
  • Heading Home Congregate has a program called “Up and Out”. When a family finds permanent housing and is moving out of this shelter, volunteers and staff do a complete makeover on the apartment; they focus on the children’s bedroom, providing theme decorations, some examples given were a Dora the Explorer room for a 4-year-old girl.
  • Mary Eliza Mahoney House has instituted “Resident of The Month” where they are recognizing a resident each month that are meeting goals and rewarding her with a gift card and a curfew extension for one night.
  • Mary Eliza Mahoney House also provided voter education workshops for their residents and provided transportation to and from the voting polls for the Presidential election this month.
  • Phoenix House used funding from HomeBASE to house a family by matching a family with earned income with a developer with tax credit apartments. The family was able to use the funds to subsidize rental payments.
  • Phoenix House encourages peer-to-peer support by having residents facilitate housing search meetings. At the weekly meetings, the residents are responsible for sharing information with the other residents, regarding housing opportunities learned over the week.
  • CTI-Merrimack House is promoting choice and autonomy by allowing families to pick their chores at the weekly house meeting. A resident has buy-in and is more willing to do a chore of their choice. 

2 thoughts on ““ Some really good practices for working with young families in shelter”

  1. This is great, Michelle! Thanks for including us and sharing these ideas. Sounds like programs are being really creative and doing some great work – I especially love the sound of Heading Home’s “Up and Out Program”!


    • Programs are definitely responding to the young parent population with creative ideas. We want to continue to acknowledging these efforts. I am encouraging all programs to share how they are adapting to young families and incorporating all they’ve learned about emerging adult development in their work. Thanks!


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