Healthy Mommy, Healthy Family
By Ejiro Ntekume | HealthCorps Coordinator
Many families that experience homelessness in the Los Angeles area are often left with the difficult choice: Shelter or Separation? While shelter may be the obvious go-to option for some, others are faced with the difficult decision to separate. For the families that do end up in a shelter, their experiences are often not as pleasant as they hope. However, when new families (mothers and their children) arrive at Good Shepherd Center in Los Angeles, CA, seeking shelter, they can rest assured that their experience will be one that is not only pleasant, but pivotal in getting them on the path towards stability and permanent housing.
As the Family Services Coordinator at Good Shepherd Center, Janice Oyama works diligently to ensure that every family who passes through the center has the opportunity to live in a space that promotes the advancement of the mother and her children as well as provides the opportunity to obtain essential life skills. One of the main focuses in Janice’s role is to ensure that the women have strong, effective programming that offers them the life skills they need to be the healthiest moms they can be and prepares them before transitioning back into the real world. In 2018, Oyama provided a structured and well thought out approach to programming, providing the women with an array of classes, workshops and opportunities that would support their journey at GSC. One of the programs Janice incorporated into rotation was HealthCorps.
“Prior to HealthCorps coming to GSC, there was not a lot of consistent programming focused on health and wellness at the Center for the women.” The women were offered programming, primarily focused on employment, housing and parenting but “there was nothing specific that pertained to their overall health and well being,” a component Oyama saw as one that was important for the families at GSC.
Many times, when women are experiencing homelessness with their families, their health takes a back seat. Having the HealthCorps program is a friendly reminder to the women, that their health is essential, not only for themselves, but for their children as well.
The addition of HealthCorps to Family Services Programming at GSC has been nothing short of fantastic. Oyama adds that, “The clients at Good Shepherd have been introduced to health and wellness in a way that is interactive and accessible. For many women who are currently experiencing homelessness, it has raised their awareness of what wellness means to them, and how to be their healthiest self.”
The HealthCorps program introduced opportunities for women to learn healthy behaviors around nutrition, physical fitness, and mental resiliency, and the impact the program has made thus far has been essential in ensuring that the families at GSC have an opportunity to live their best and healthiest lives.
With the launch of the program early in 2018, Janice quickly saw the impact that HealthCorps was having with the clients. When clients round up their time at GSC, they partake in an ‘exit interview’ with their case managers to provide feedback about their experiences while at the center. About a month and a half into programming, Oyama was pleasantly surprised when a fellow case manager shared that a client who was transitioning out of GSC, mentioned HealthCorps in her exit interview, sharing that “she really enjoyed the nutrition education workshops and how she was able to see that ‘healthy eating was still attainable for her despite her circumstances through the utilization of S.M.A.R.T goals.’”
“By increasing their education around making healthy choices, this is knowledge our clients can take with them wherever they end up next,” Oyama shares. “There have been multiple occasions where clients talk with the HealthCorps Coordinator about their struggles and challenges with nutrition and are given clear, attainable and important information that can help them overcome those challenges.” In addition to being informative, the HealthCorps program has proven to be a safe space where women can come and be honest about the challenges they face with their overall health and wellness. “By having that safe space”, Oyama shares, “clients are able to advance in their journey of self discovery and building their confidence in themselves”. This space along with the programming, allows the moms to be the best version of themselves, contributing to an overall healthy mom, and ultimately, a happy and healthy family.