Dedicated Homies

Every Saturday and Sunday children staying at Serenity Inn in Eureka have the opportunity to be part of the outreach program Homelessness Network, affectionately known as “Homie Net”. Homelessness Network directors Katherine Nunes-Siciliani and Danielle Saldaña, along with their 10-12 volunteers, provide children at this service site the opportunity to express themselves through a wide array of activities, from arts and crafts to science projects to recreational games. 
In the Fall 2015 semester the group even hosted a “Family Fun Day”, including both the children they serve and their parents/guardians in a fun-filled day of holiday-themed crafts. They also set up a “College Education Day” at Serenity Inn where they told their personal stories about their journey to higher education and, of course, provided the kids with some HSU swag and free books! 
Katherine says Homelessness Network is part of a bigger constellation of programs fighting for the rights of homeless individuals all over Humboldt County, “We’re not just looking at our small impact, we’re looking at this small impact and that small impact and making those connections”. She says Homie Net is part of a broader effort to create a collective consciousness eliminating stigmas surrounding homelessness. “’s important to note that just doing this work alone we are starting and normalizing dialogue about these issues...which leads to a transition to bigger change”. 
Of the small impacts Homelessness Network has made, Katherine recalls mending frustrations between two dueling young boys in the program during the fall semester of 2015. A specific boy transformed over the course of the program, going from disconnected and nearly unmanageable to trusting and interactive with the group and his peers. By the end of the semester Homie Net taught him how to connect with others and communicate his struggles in a non violent manner. He even gifted an arts and crafts project to the peer he had been in conflict with all semester. Katherine said her volunteers were very cognizant of these “little victories” and very happy to see the semester close in such an inspiring way. 
In the near future Homie Net is hoping to create an after school program for homeless/houseless Arcata Elementary students, however, they have run into some obstacles in identifying and reaching out to this demographic. “There is a stigma about being a homeless person, and it is difficult to access the kids because of these boundaries”, says Katherine. Homelessness Network also hopes to outreach to students on the HSU campus, possibly providing free clothes and support groups. Homelessness Network, nonetheless, will never cease to strive in expanding its horizons to support an ever growing population in need.