Recently, our Homeless Children's Network (HCN) team had the incredible opportunity to attend the Creating Change Conference in New Orleans. This event marked a significant chapter in our journey, allowing us to share our initiatives and absorb valuable insights from other changemakers.
Founded in 1992 in San Francisco, HCN has grown remarkably over the past 30 years, remaining steadfast in our mission to alleviate the trauma associated with homelessness. Evolving with the times, our dedication has expanded to empowering not just children and families but also youth and adults, guiding them toward brighter futures. This journey of growth and adaptation has been a cornerstone of our work, as we continue to respond to the ever-changing needs of the communities we serve.
Our participation in the conference was led by a dynamic team, including Dr. April Silas, CEO; Shawneshia Hoover, Director of Africentric Mental Health; Kendra Twenter, Ma’at Child and Family Therapist; and Cameron Smith, Director of Africentric Programs. Our presentation, under the theme "Black, Queer Tools of Liberation," covered various critical areas, including the significance of mental health support and financial resources for marginalized communities, the importance of culturally rich and accessible mental health resources, tailoring mental health services to local needs, and the involvement of the community.
Our discussion also delved into the Ma’at Dream Keeper Initiative, focusing on exploring tools of liberation related to Black LGBTQIA+ mental health, critically analyzing current systems and access to care, and examining the role of insurance in creating barriers. We highlighted the necessity of decolonizing mental health and addressing the impact of historical trauma.
Community involvement and policy changes were underscored as crucial elements. We emphasized the importance of involving local communities in the design, implementation, and evaluation of mental health programs, and the need for policy changes to address systemic barriers in mental health care.
The Ma’at LGBTQ DKI, an Africentric program based on culturally guided principles, was also highlighted. This program offers a range of services, including individual therapy, consultations, and presentations on decolonizing therapy and cultural humility, focusing on serving Black LGBTQIA+ youth and families.
Furthermore, we shared insights into our Afro-Cultural Preservation and LGBTQIA+ Mini-Grant Program, a testament to our commitment to empowering the Black LGBTQIA+ community through direct funding of innovative ideas. We've proudly distributed 94 Afro Cultural Preservation LGBTQIA+ Mini Grants, totaling $1,177,258 over two years, supporting various community initiatives.
Our time at the Creating Change Conference was not merely about presenting; it was an enriching experience of learning, building connections, and a reminder of the continuous work necessary in our communities. We returned more inspired and committed to our mission of empowering and supporting those we serve.
This conference was a vivid illustration of how HCN is making strides in the realm of community support, particularly for marginalized groups like the Black and LGBTQIA+ communities. Our experience in New Orleans has further fueled our dedication to making a tangible impact in the lives of those we reach.