AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – For children living in an Amherst homeless shelter, a Playspace is being reopened through the Horizons for Homeless Children organization.

Since 1988, the organization has been providing children with Playspaces. Horizons’ goal is to create spaces that are dedicated to playing, a vital aspect that children experiencing homelessness may not be able to undergo.

After a two-year hiatus, Playspaces were shut down due to Covid-19, but through recent developments, the Horizons team rebuilt the spaces. Over 50 spaces across Massachusetts have reopened, including in Amherst. “We were supporting families outdoors and remotely for so many months. We are so pleased to now be welcomed back into the shelters to resume and grow what has been a program of great value to families and volunteers for decades,” said Lynne Gaines, Director of the Playspace Program.

A dedicated playtime with trained, dedicated volunteers is to be established. Evening childcare will also resume bringing parent relief. “Volunteers are the backbone of everything we do at Horizons,” said Tara Spalding, Chief Development & Marketing Officer, “We need volunteers to provide kids access to our program, which is a game-changer. Living in a shelter can be chaotic and stressful, but we are able to provide a safe, healing place. Children literally heal through play, which is the beauty of the Playspace program.”

“I have a friend who has been in and out of the shelter system with two children. I saw how debilitatingly hard it can be as a mom to live in a shelter and to experience homelessness,” said Robin Hauck a Playspace Volunteer. “That inspired me to get involved and I am so glad I did.  Horizons has enabled me to give back to families like my friend and that experience has been one of the best things in my life.”