Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church is committed to creating safe spaces and this is important in our Outreach work.
Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church is committed to creating safe spaces and this is important in our Outreach work. We use a philosophy called Trauma-Informed Care and this method guides the work of the Ecumenical Outreach Partnership with our partners St. Thomas Episcopal and St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Trauma-Informed Care are practices that promote a culture of safety, empowerment and healing. This perspective is used in treatment modalities, childcare agencies, shelters and social service agencies throughout the world. A Trauma-Informed Care lens doesn’t ask, “What is wrong with the individual?” but instead asks, “What Happened?”
The philosophy of Trauma-Informed Care uses 5 guiding principles: Safety; Collaboration; Choice; Trustworthiness and Empowerment. The majority of people living on the streets have experienced significant trauma in their lives. Homelessness itself is a traumatic event to get food, find a bathroom or get warm or cool. On a daily basis they are exposed to the grit, grime and dirt of the city and are often verbally and physically abused.
Here at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, the Ecumenical Outreach Partnership embraces all the principles of Trauma-Informed Care. Our program must be a place where the people we help feel physically and emotionally safe. We do this by greeting people with respect as soon as they walk in the door. This is accomplished by our front desk team and EOP staff. Regretfully many of our clients are not treated with respect in the various places they go including government agencies. I have witnessed this when I accompany people to appointments. This is the opposite of the approach we use and can have the effect
of re-traumatizing people.
Trauma-Informed Care also creates a framework to establish a relationship. Recently, I saw a man, Ray 58, who is now in a shelter. Ray 58 had been homeless for many years and had no family. He has now made the decision to get off the street and we are helping him get long-term housing. If we had told him to go to a shelter when he appeared at our doors he would not have gone. We would never have a connection with him today. That is Trauma-Informed Care in action.