Shelter Nights: A Fresh Perspective
Our new Director of Communications, Hannah Hughes was hired in July of 2015. This is her take on how our "Shelter Nights" program impacts the homeless students we serve.
At The David’s Harp Foundation we offer an array of programs to reach “at-risk” and homeless youth. Each program is so unique and amazing but I have fallen in love with our “Shelter Nights” program.
Every Tuesday night we open the doors of our studio to our community partner, San Diego Youth Services Emergency Youth Shelter - the only youth homeless shelter in San Diego. At the shelter, teens check themselves in each night receiving a safe place to sleep and access to resources to help them transition to a more permanent living solution.
Once they check themselves in and are safe for the night, the students are shuttled to our Downtown San Diego facility where they have the opportunity to create music.
From the very first time I attended Shelter Nights, I was in awe. I left feeling so many emotions. Part of me was heartbroken to know the struggle the kids were walking through, but then a bigger part of me left inspired. I saw the transformation process begin as our staff welcomed the students, undeterred by their attempts conceal their anxiety. Over the course of the next 15 minutes, I witnessed students that were in the midst of homelessness leave their problems at the door of our studio, smile and become teenagers again.
One girl in particular, Diane, has impacted my life. She is a junior in high school and has been at the shelter for quite some time. She is on her own and wakes up every morning at 4am to be able to make the 2-hour commute to school via multiple bus rides to make it on time for first period. She is passionate about her music and an excellent student. The first week she walked into our studio she was shy, quiet and disengaged. I watched the staff interact with her as she pretended to be uninterested in the process, her head bowed eyes fixed on her cell phone.
I walked out of the studio filled with students making music and made a point to talk to her. We talked about our favorite colors; hers is bright pink. We talked about our wanderlust, favorite foods, the struggles of high school, and finally her dreams. Before we knew it we had talked for about 20 minutes. The session was over for the night, but I told her I hoped to see her again and that she would get in the vocal booth to sing next week. She laughed as she left, but pinky promised me that she would.
The next week she came in the studio with her song ready to go, but asked everyone except Brandon, our Executive Director, and I to leave when she recorded. It was amazing to watch her boldly overcome her fears. When she came out of the vocal booth she was beaming from ear to ear. As she left she said, “thank you for challenging me to go in there, I would have never done it if you wouldn’t have come to talk to me.”
Every week after that she has come ready and rehearsed, even reassuring new students to face their fear and give it a try. Diane patiently tells other students her story about how scared she was her first time and then walks in, records her song, and gently encourages them to do the same. It is a beautiful process to watch. She is so good at what she does, she even got me to go in the studio with her and record a duet to Justin Bieber, and I NEVER sing in front of people.
So why is Shelter Nights so amazing? Simply put, it is stories like Diane’s that happen week after week. It is watching teens overcome obstacles and choose to redefine their story, no matter how hard their reality is.
Hannah Hughes - Director of Communication
"I have had the pleasure of witnessing the David's Harp staff interact with our youth week after week at their Shelter Nights program. The youth that stay at the Storefront Shelter have endured severe hardships for their age, and they often have many difficulties coping. The David's Harp Foundation provides them with a safe, creative space where they can forget about their troubles and just be a teenager." -Jennifer Phillippe Volunteer SDYS Emergency Youth Shelter