Fostering Resiliency in African American School-Age Boys Experiencing Homelessness

Emerging Leader Fellow: C. Leigh Wilson, 2013-2014

Each year, hundreds of African American boys make up a significant portion of the 3,400 children in Philadelphia who will live with their families in emergency housing. There is a dearth of information specifically on how African American boys experience homelessness and the People's Emergency Center (PEC) has recognized the need to better accommodate this population within the context of temporary housing. In the past two years, PEC has served 332 African American boys in its family emergency and transitional housing. Without a better understanding of the specific needs of school-age, Black males, PEC’s staff has recognized that their ability to support them in attaining improved life circumstances is severely restricted.

Early last year, PEC staff recognized this challenge and encouraged the organization’s leadership to address it. Leigh will help PEC understand the specific challenges faced by the young boys and male teens in their care and how PEC can adapt its programs and services to support boys in developing a healthy sense of self. She will work with a research professor from the University of Pennsylvania, PEC staff and residents to 1) conduct primary research analyzing demographic and other essential data collected about boys served by PEC during the past two years; 2) interview staff, parents and boys; 3) undertake a literature review for existing programs or research on meeting the needs of African American boys facing homelessness; and, 4) make recommendations for practice and program changes at PEC. Upon completion of the project, Leigh will share her findings with members of Philadelphia’s Family Service Provider Network (FSPN), as well as at a national conference.