Our friends from the Homeless Health Initiative in Philadelphia share strategies and communication techniques for helping vulnerable families feel at ease in your care. Before you begin, check out this training video featuring the organization’s staff and volunteers.

Now explore the videos and resources below and consider how you can use the strategies in your own work.

  1. 1

    The Challenges

    Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58Vln98tfCw

    Write down a few specific challenges families in shelter transition may face within the healthcare system. An example may be the lack of continuity in care or difficulty with transportation.

    Then, as you watch this video, consider these questions:

    • What might some concrete examples of “tools you can give right now while surviving” and “ones you can use later on when you have more control” be?
    • What are some things you might say or do with parents to help instill a sense of hope for the future?


  2. 2

    Communication Strategies for Positive Interactions

    Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5AyPgoJYwQ

    As you watch, pause to write down one question, idea, or observation you have for each of the three communication strategies presented:

    • Ask respectful, open-ended questions
    • Highlight the positives
    • Use the “teach-back” method

    Then try describing the teach-back method as if you were explaining it to a colleague, using examples if helpful. If you’re with a colleague, try role-playing.


  3. 3

    Ideas Into Action: Circles of Care

    Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sB_fJ9BuDmg

    As a healthcare provider, you’re a key member of children’s (and families’) circle of care. You can share this important concept by showing children this video on your phone or tablet as you speak with parents. The video stars Lily, a 7-year-old Muppet who is experiencing homelessness. Point out to children that many other children are in their situation, they are not alone.

    Especially when parents are frustrated and feeling worn down, you can talk to them and their children together about the circle of care after children have seen the video. Just use pen and paper and do what Sofia did for Lily in the video (you can use a heart, as in the video, or just a circle shape):

    • The dots you draw represent you and other members of the health care team, as well as other providers such as social workers, food pantry staff, or teachers who support them.
    • Families may also be able to list some friends and family members…the more dots, the better.
    • Invite children to connect the dots and draw their family inside the heart (or circle). Emphasize that they are not alone.
  4. 4

    Ideas Into Action: Waiting for Visits

    Download printable

    Families experiencing homelessness often spend a lot of time in the waiting rooms of health care facilities, and parents are often overwhelmed by navigating the system that provides necessary services. So by the time you’re offering your services, both little ones and parents can be struggling, making it hard to remain receptive and optimistic.

    You can make this pre-visit time a little easier by helping parents and children relax together. Print, copy, and set a stack of these collaborative coloring pages out in your waiting area with crayons and colored pencils. When families come into your office, you might ask to see what they’ve done or use it as an ice breaker or conversation starter (check out the tips at the bottom).