The Effects of Trauma on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth

What is Trauma? 

According to the Center for Nonviolence & Social Justice, "the word “trauma” is used to describe experiences or situations that are emotionally painful and distressing, and that overwhelm people’s ability to cope, leaving them powerless. Trauma has sometimes been defined in reference to circumstances that are outside the realm of normal human experience. Unfortunately, this definition doesn’t always hold true. For some groups of people, trauma can occur frequently and become part of the common human experience.

In addition to terrifying events such as violence and assault, we suggest that relatively more subtle and insidious forms of trauma—such as discrimination, racism, oppression, and poverty—are pervasive and, when experienced chronically, have a cumulative impact that can be fundamentally life-altering.

Particular forms of trauma, such as intentional violence and/or witnessing violence, sustained discrimination, poverty, and ensuing chaotic life conditions are directly related to chronic fear and anxiety, with serious long-term effects on health and other life outcomes."


Please click here for full bios of the panelists. 

Tina Giarla
Community Outreach Associate; Legislative Advocate, Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless
Elisabeth Jackson 
Executive Director, Bridge Over Troubled Waters
Sam Margolius 
Program Manager, YouthHarbors, Justice Resource Institute
Sarah Slautterback 
State Coordinator, Office for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Kitty Zen 
Co-Facilitator, Massachusetts Housing & Shelter Alliance Leadership Development Program


Ayala Livny, M.ED 
Consultant, Formerly of Youth on Fire

Reading List 

The following articles and documents are presented to participants for further reading: