Workshops explore the benefits of art-based therapy

The supplies were simple: paint, markers, colored pencils and magazines for collages. Using art to explore self-reflection, Care for the Homeless social workers, case managers and mental health specialists hosted workshops this March at several of our sites that serve specific homeless sub-populations.

“We wanted to focus on populations that don’t often get activities,” said Heather Garber, licensed clinical social worker. “In Manhattan, we worked with LGBQ homeless youth. In Queens, we went to one site that serves homeless seniors and another that serves homeless families with teens. Adolescents don’t often get activities geared for their age group. On Wards Islands, we worked with homeless men with criminal backgrounds.”

Homeless youth face additional challenges. NYC shelters only provide shelter beds to adults (ages 18 and older) or children under 18 with their parent or guardian. Many of the homeless youth we serve are street homeless or staying in precarious emergency housing.

The workshop connected peers to one another, sharing common experiences. "You're gonna be fine," said one homeless youth to another, as they created “selfies” with the art supplies.

Benny Rodriguez, senior case manager, shared: “Some participants expressed how they felt through society. I worked with a legally blind, transgender homeless youth, reflecting on how to identify in society.”

At the conclusion of the workshop, every participant shared the meaning behind their artwork, without judgment. Heather continued: “Therapeutic groups are not always calm. This was healing.”

These workshops were designed as part of a month-long celebration. Every March, the National Association of Social Workers organizes celebrations across the U.S. for Social Work Appreciation Month. At Care for the Homeless, we celebrate Social Services Appreciation Month. 

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