MUSC doctor addresses behavioral health needs of homeless children
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - One80 Place in downtown Charleston is known for helping people with physical needs, such as providing them with shelter or food.
A MUSC psychiatric mental health nurse and associate professor are working with homeless parents and children to address behavioral health needs for the past year and continues to do so.
She’s doing it through what she calls “calm boxes,” multi-sensory items, such as fidget toys and Pop Its.
Dr. Joy Lauerer noticed kids were coming to One80 with just the clothes on their back, and she created these boxes to help them better cope with emotions.
She makes boxes specific to a child’s age and says that teens up to the age of 16 are benefiting.
For the first six months, Lauerer was creating the boxes with her own money, but after seeing how essential they are, One80 has taken over funding for the initiative.
Lauerer and One80 say they’ve seen a large increase in homeless families in the last two years due to several reasons including the lack of affordable housing.
The average cost per household in the Lowcountry increased almost $5,000 from 2019 to 2021, according to One80.
One80 has space for four families at a time, until they can get them re-housed, and right now over 10 kids are staying here.
“What I frequently see is parents who have experienced some form of trauma and then consequently lose their housing, they don’t have a lot of resources, a lot of times they don’t have family support or friends, often times they don’t have a vehicle, so they’re isolated,” Lauerer said.
Lauerer along with one of her students engaged in the program say the boxes have had a positive impact on the kids and their parents.
“People have been through a lot,” MUSC College of Nursing student Josh Moran said. “Sometimes you can’t change things, but just try to be there for them.”
Around 40 boxes have been created and given out to children and teens.
Lauerer says her goal is to expand the project in the months and years to come.
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