24 Jun The Impact of Therapy on LGBTQ+ Youth Experiencing Homelessness
When Michelle lost her housing, a friend told her about CHRIS 180 and our Drop-In Center. The Drop-In Center provides a range of free services for youth ages 16-24 who are experiencing homelessness. These services include meals, life coaching, job and housing assistance and walk-in therapy sessions. But Michelle was hesitant. She had just come out as a trans woman and worried about reaching out for help and being met with judgment.
However, when Michelle arrived at the Drop-In Center for the first time, she was surrounded by a welcoming community ready to help her accomplish her goals.
“Everyone was good about my pronouns right away,” Michelle shared. “They accept you how you are. That’s one of the first things I connected with at CHRIS 180.”
Michelle started coming to the Drop-In Center every day to receive meals, life coaching and therapy. DeKeisha Teasley, LAMFT, a Therapist at the Drop-In Center, said that providing therapy and life coaching are two keys to helping stabilize a person experiencing homelessness.
“Clothes and food are a fix for a day,” Teasley explained. “But if you can develop the life skills and the mental health of a person, you’ll be able to help them in a long-term way.”
With help from the Drop-In Center team, Michelle now has a safe home of her own with furniture provided by CHRIS 180’s Outreach and Community Housing Program. The team also helped her attain a phlebotomy certification, purchase her own car, dress in a way that allows her to express herself, develop healthy relationships and start a full-time job assisting with the COVID-19 vaccination effort. Michelle was also awarded the Walker Fellowship Scholarship at Covenant House, which will help pay for school in the medical field. She still visits the Drop-In Center every week for therapy.
Michelle is excited to shape her future according to what she wants, not just what she needs to do to get by.
“I want to work in the health field and am weighing whether that means a lab position, nursing or something else,” Michelle shared. “I want to help people. And I want to pursue my art. And now I can really think about how to make that happen.”
Therapy for Youth Experiencing Homelessness
Michelle and other people at The Drop-In Center who are experiencing homelessness have found that therapy helps them reach their goals. According to Teasley, experiencing homelessness is often a side-effect of past issues and traumas, so resolving them is necessary for people to live successful lives.
“There is significant trauma that comes with experiencing homelessness. Part of understanding that trauma is understanding how they got to that point,” Teasley said. “Our program exists specifically for youth, and so many of our clients have aged out of foster care or were kicked out by parents who don’t accept their gender transition or sexual orientation or whatever the reason may be. They have to deal with that family rejection plus experiencing homelessness. Before coming here, many of them feel like they’re in this world by themselves.”
The Trauma and Mental Health Challenges of Experiencing Homelessness
Teasley said the most common diagnoses amongst her clients are post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression.
“Mental health challenges or something in their past could be hindering them from applying for food stamps, keeping a job, etcetera,” Teasley explained. “In therapy sessions, we can explore and process how that past trauma is affecting their motivation and behavior so that they can move forward with their life.”
Every weekday, The Drop-In Center’s doors are open to any youth experiencing homelessness who needs services. Teasley said she is thankful to be a helping hand for those wanting to change the direction of their lives.
“People experiencing homelessness tend to face obstacles with transportation and moving around often. But there are people who come in regularly because they know therapy works for them,” Teasley shared. “And it doesn’t have to take years and years to no longer be homeless. I have seen clients come into The Drop-In Center and within six months are living in a new home. Your life is supposed to be happy, healthy and successful. We’re here to help people put in the work to change their lives for the better.”