At Brookview in Boston, Youth Experiencing Homelessness Find Wellness and Joy

December 13, 2022

Founded in 1990, Brookview is a Black- and Latinx women-led organization that works for justice, equity and systemic change for mothers and children experiencing and at risk of homelessness, many with histories of domestic violence. Our mission is to help these families develop the skills necessary to break the cycle of homelessness and poverty. Through a two-generation, culturally-responsive approach, Brookview provides housing and a broad range of supportive programs to improve educational achievement, health and well-being, and economic independence.

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Courtesy of Randy H. Goodman photography

Brookview House in Boston is a haven for families experiencing homelessness. Not only does the Black and Latinx-led organization provide a safe place to live, but they provide on-site programs to build skills and independence, along with individualized mental health services for the parents and children who reside there and those in the community as well.

These services are unique and desperately needed. Young people of color in Boston struggled to access mental health services long before the pandemic; now, the struggle has turned into a crisis as the grave consequences become clear. Sadly, cases of self-harm among socioeconomically disadvantaged youth have only continued to climb even as life returns to something resembling “normal.”

Black and brown children, particularly ones from communities with higher rates of poverty and crime, face an increased risk of negative health outcomes, including suicide, according to a study published in JAMA Pediatrics. What’s more, psychiatric and behavioral problems among minority youth often result in school punishment or incarceration, but rarely mental health care.

Youth experiencing homelessness have even more severe needs while the resources are scarcer. In these cases, much of the burden for mental health access falls to the school systems, which are severely under resourced themselves. Because of the pandemic, children and youth experiencing homelessness were often ensnared in the clutches of an abusive caregiver, lacked appropriate supervision, and faced hunger and inadequate healthcare.

Brookview has witnessed and continues to witness children presenting with fear, anxiety, and depression. But the organization has a long history of helping families lift themselves out of homelessness, due in large part to its commitment to mental health and physical wellness. Brookview’s new health and wellness center is paramount in its efforts to provide residents and low-income families in the community access to PPE, vaccine clinics, mental health counseling and group activities such as expressive therapy, music therapy, and trauma-informed yoga.

Through partnerships with community organizations like Boston’s own GrubStreet, children at Brookview have been able to express their emotions through poetry, art, and audio recording projects. Self-expression is further encouraged in coding classes where Brookview’s youth have had an opportunity to design their own computer programs and games. The healing power of nature has been recognized with regular planting and gardening projects on-site with organizations like Cityscapes.

When you walk into any of Brookview’s locations, you sense a family atmosphere. You see the evidence of happy children – their toys and games in bright and cheerful spaces, their computers and folded exercise mats. During the holidays, you will find them decorating gingerbread houses, or crafting homemade gifts for their caregivers. In the summer you will see them preparing for field trips to museums, water parks, the zoo, or an arcade.

Brookview believes in housing as a platform for programs and services, but it also believes in the healing power of home. Those families who land at Brookview each reside in their own multi-bedroom space with full kitchen, living room and bathrooms where they can grow and flourish as a family unit.

Mental health looks like many things, not just counseling, and for those who live at Brookview it’s having your needs met and your feelings expressed and accepted by a community of professionals and caregivers who look like you, live where you live, and want only to see you succeed.

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