LOVE – March 2020

Before I got the job at North Light, while completing my Master’s Degree, I was an intern for the Office of Attorney General Josh Shapiro in his Office of Public Engagement. The main project that I was working on was the Pennsylvania Trauma-Informed Network (PATIN), which brought a level of understanding throughout systems of care across the Commonwealth that acknowledged the effects of trauma and adversity, and focused on developing resilience to combat the obstacles that life throws our way. After graduating and losing my student internship, I stumbled upon a place that was made to be trauma-informed. North Light already provided basic needs and empowered those most in need. My first day at North Light as the Director of Development was also my first day on my journey toward becoming a trauma-competent professional at Lakeside Global Institute. The key instrument that was missing at the Center was a shared understanding and language surrounding trauma and resilience. Lowering Overdose and Violence Epidemics (LOVE) was the initiative that grew out of this need for organization-wide training to make the transition toward really being trauma-informed. With the help of  a longtime community member, Steve Honeyman, to mentor me through this process, we put together a committee of more than a dozen board and staff members, volunteers, community stakeholders, and neighbors to begin the conversation around the need for trauma-informed care.

There was much conversation about the historical substance use that has existed in the Manayunk/Roxborough communities for much time, as well as violence that stemmed from that and the gentrification in the communities, which validated the need for this sort of initiative. North Light is uniquely positioned to reach those most in need and disseminate trauma-informed concepts throughout the communities we serve. I had the unique privilege, while being at North Light and continuing my professional development in the trauma-informed space, of being elected as an executive board member for the Campaign for Trauma-Informed Policy and Practice (CTIPP), which gave me a network of experts from around the country to help launch the LOVE initiative in a meaningful way. We had built community support and now had the expertise to make this a successful effort.

LOVE officially launched on December 7, 2019 with a Trauma 101 training from Lakeside Global Institute to board, community, and staff members at North Light. On the same day, through the efforts of a few LOVE team members and board member Danny Phelps, we also launched our SafeZone initiative, to ensure North Light is a safe space for members of the LGBTQIA+ communities. This training was the first step of many to become a trauma-informed and trauma-responsive space, while ultimately working to build a focus on resilience and wellness into all of our programs. The United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey took an interest in the initiative, and supported it beyond Trauma 101 to continue supporting professional developments at the Center, including allowing staff and volunteers to follow the same trauma-competent professional track that I did through Lakeside. Additionally, we are developing new programs, such as parenting classes, to promote trauma-sensitivity at the earliest stages to be preventative and promote happy and healthy childhoods. Finally, we are developing new partnerships, such as those with Unity Recovery and Recovery Centers of America, to support our constituents most in need of support.

North Light does not have the expertise to heal all people’s wounds, but it does have the trust to develop meaningful relationships to help people open up, and can connect people to the services and supports they need to thrive. That is what LOVE is working to do. Help create a continuum of care that helps those most in need. As top-down approaches, such as PATIN or CTIPP’s National Trauma Campaign, reach the grassroots, we can expect for the LOVE initiative to continue to thrive.

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