By David Brand @D4V1DBR4ND
Queens Daily Eagle
Twenty homeless teens will get a boost this summer thanks to the Floating Hospital, a health clinic based in Long Island City.
On July 9, Floating Hospital will launch launch Camp Rise Up, a one-week day camp for teenagers ages 12 to 15 who experience homelessness in New York City. In addition to the Long Island City clinic, the organization has ten satellite sites, including one in the Queensbridge Houses.
Meghan Miller, the Floating Hospital’s Director of Health Education, said the camp will feature programs that focus on improving health, managing emotions and having fun.
“We are doing this camp because adolescence is tough,” Miller said. “Your body, your mind and your relationships are all changing quickly and it’s stressful. It’s even more difficult when you are going through these changes while living in a shelter.”
The teens will learn skills like building healthy relationships, how to respond to peer pressure and the meaning of consent, while also learning about health topics such as sex education, pregnancy, substance abuse and sexually transmitted diseases.
Children who experience homelessness are at least twice as likely to engage in risky health behaviors such as alcohol and drug abuse in comparison to their housed peers, according to the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The Institute for Children Homelessness and Poverty reports that homeless high schoolers are more likely than their housed peers to attempt suicide, experience intimate partner violence and suffer from preventable, but serious, health problems.
Miller said the young participants are already involved with the organization, though they live in various parts of the city, including Staten Island and the Bronx. Each child resides in a homeless shelters or domestic violence shelter or doubles up with others in a cramped apartment.
The distance from their temporary residences to the Long Island City clinic will pose a challenge for campers, Miller said, but the Floating Hospital will provide Metrocard to kids and to parents and guardians who choose to escort them to camp.
Next year, the organization hopes to expand the program to dozens of other children experiencing homelessness who often lack access to extracurricular and summer programs due to expense or instability, Miller said.
According to the Department of Homeless Services’ July 3 daily report, 21,831 children stayed in a city shelter on Monday.
The program will enable children to tackle topics like sexual and emotional health without judgment from coordinators.
“My hope is that the kids discuss topics that aren’t getting talked about in school,” she told the Queens Daily Eagle. “I hope is they leave more confident knowing that they have the skills to overcome peer pressure, no matter the instability of their houses. And that they have control over their decision, emotions and bodies.”