Traumatic stress occurs when an individual experiences an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that are so physically or emotionally challenging, harmful or threatening that they overwhelm the available internal and/or external resources and interfere with ability to cope effectively. Traumatic stress is of particular concern for individuals experiencing homelessness, where trauma may result from past events in childhood, events leading up to becoming homeless, and/or events that occur during a period of being without permanent shelter. People who provide assistance in homeless service systems of care are not always aware of the trauma that occurred in the past when they encounter a client, may not be prepared to offer trauma and resiliency informed environments needed to achieve maximal outcomes, and/or may not have expertise or training to offer trauma-specific treatment. By definition, “trauma and resiliency informed care” includes an understanding of the multiple levels and kinds of trauma clients experience, the environmental and procedural actions that can ensure access or facilitate effective use of care, and the evidence-based interventions used to treat trauma-related symptoms and
There are six well-established core values necessary for trauma and resiliency informed care including 1) safety, 2) trustworthiness/transparency, 3) peer support; 4) empowerment/choice/voice; 5) collaboration/mutuality; and 6) cultural/historical/gender diversity. When these are present, outcomes are improved and participants can experience growth, empowerment, and healing.
This report will discuss the potential effects of trauma and traumatic stress on people experiencing homelessness, the systemic factors that are important considerations, well-established individual and organizational interventions, and examples of trauma and resiliency informed approaches in homelessness service provider organizations.