By Jo-El Wadsworth
Violence plays a significant role in the lives of the children who come to Scottie’s Place. Research shows that 83% of children who have experienced homelessness have been exposed to at least one serious violent event by age twelve and almost 25% have witnessed acts of violence within their families. Children who witness violence are more likely to exhibit aggressive and antisocial behavior, experience an increase in fear, depression and anxiety in their daily lives, and have a greater acceptance of violence as a means of resolving conflict.
Many of the children who come to Scottie’s Place tell stories of violence in their homes, schools and neighborhoods. They talk about dangerous fathers, knives in school and gangs on the streets. Their stories include fleeing to safety, eviction, hunger, and death. To address their feelings of fear, anger and helplessness, we play a game at Scottie’s Place called “Comfort Zone”, a type of storytelling and movement game that allows children to talk about the pain in their lives in a safe and supportive setting. Moreover, the game teaches that everything is always changing, that life and learning always move through phases of challenge and growth. On a deeper level, this knowledge gives new hope to children experiencing the stress of homelessness and violence.