Metropolitan Ministries received shocking data revealing suicides and drug overdoses were deeply affecting the populations they serve.
They found 93% of families exposed to homelessness, suffered emotional and psychological trauma.
So the nonprofit group decided to open a new Counseling and Resiliency Center to provide individual, family and group therapy — all free of charge.
"They just need rest and need somebody to listen and need somebody to validate their experience. And that's a lot of what we do here in counseling," explained Victoria Hummer, who's the Director of Transformation at Metropolitan Ministries' New Counseling and Resiliency Center.
Hummer said this pandemic has caused many to lose their jobs and their homes, and now their mental well-being is at stake.
"They have to start over completely. And so there's nothing predictable to rely on. So everything feels very out of kilter for a while, even though they come into a shelter. And they feel like at least they're not in their car and they're safe. It's not the same as having their own home," Hummer explained.
The Resiliency Center offers all kinds of counseling sessions including individual therapy, couple's therapy, family therapy and group therapy.
"Groups are often around things like teaching mindfulness, things like helping them understand the impact of trauma, developing self awareness, resiliency, so their skill building and an opportunity for them to share with other people that have maybe had a similar experience," Hummer said.
And for young children, becoming homeless can be quite traumatic and scary so the center uses 'play therapy' to help little ones express their feelings.
"A lot of them like to draw, and you can tell how they're feeling by what they're drawing and who they put in the picture. Behind me is the dollhouse, and so they will often play out all kinds of scenarios, maybe wished for, maybe things that have happened to them with the dollhouse or the costuming or the animals. I mean, those are mechanisms through which they express their angst," she explained.
And parents who are also stressed can really use the free therapy sessions to help them feel less alone.
"Having a private counselor to spend like a half an hour or 50 minutes with you is a big deal. And I think that they benefit," explained Nancy Iben, who's volunteered at Metropolitan Ministries for almost a decade.
Iben also donated all the money to renovate the building so the counseling center could become a reality. And she even helped design it, knowing as a licensed therapist, how important it is for everyone to feel welcome.
"I think the benefit of talking to someone is that you have a non-judgmental person in front of you that's going to enable you to bounce off some ideas and help you problem-solve," Iben explained.
So if you're still feeling isolated and stuck, please reach out for help.
"Let us help you gain some skills that can help you bounce back. And that can help you calm, and can help you help your children. Learn how to take deep breaths, and enjoy the moment and imagine a future and hope for yourself," Hummer said.
The Resiliency Center is already serving about 100 people per week but hopes to expand soon to see even more members of the community.
They say about 50% of their clients are now being seen virtually as well.
If you're interested in receiving help, the Counseling Center is adjacent to the main campus at Metropolitan Ministries:
Metropolitan Ministries also offers so much more for those who are homeless or those at risk of becoming homeless. That includes all the food for holiday dinners at both Thanksgiving and Christmas and toys and gifts for the whole family, thanks to the generosity from those right here in the Tampa Bay area.