Trauma-informed care recognizes the humanity of those in need


The season of Lent is quickly approaching, and with it the opportunity to partner with Catholic Social Services with your time, treasure and talent to serve those in need in our community. For more than 52 years, Catholic Social Services has been the arms of our Catholic Church in Anchorage — reaching out to provide care and services to our neighbors who are weighed down by enormous challenges, who are suffering, or who simply need a hand to hold in tough times. We are proud to be that place in Anchorage and honored to partner with the parishes in providing services.

In our work, we provide services ranging from meeting basic needs like food and shelter, to offering longer term supports leading to permanent stability. In every facet of our work, there are opportunities to get involved and be a part of the team here. During Lent, we invite you to join us in our service. If you choose to contribute by volunteering, you will see the work of our staff using the trauma-informed care model. You will also see volunteers incorporate this approach too. Although they may have never received training about trauma-informed care, for many who come here, some of the aspects are instinctual.

Providing trauma-informed care to our clients and guests at Catholic Social Services is both a best practice and the right thing to do to best live out our mission and values. It acknowledges that trauma can be experienced physically (like being in a car accident), psychologically (like witnessing violence or experiencing loss), or a combination of both (like domestic abuse). At the heart of trauma-informed care is the recognition that trauma impacts and changes a person and can forever alter their decision-making and coping processes. We all see the impacts of trauma in people we meet every day, and we certainly see it in our clients at Catholic Social Services.

Not long ago, I was reading one of Catholic Social Services’ blogs. It was about a woman who has volunteered with us for a while. Her name is Judy, and she has overseen the Foot Clinic at Brother Francis Shelter for more than nine years. If you’re not familiar with that program, it enables guests twice a month to have their feet washed — one of the most Christ-like acts we can do for another person. The session concludes with them receiving a fresh pair of socks.

While reading I learned something about Judy’s first experience washing feet that I’d never heard from her before. She said the woman whose feet she was cleaning said to her, “This is the first time I’ve felt like a human being.” That interaction between Judy and the woman experiencing homelessness epitomizes trauma-informed care.

During Lent, and throughout the year, your personal contribution to the loving arms of the Catholic Church here in Anchorage make a difference. Our trauma-informed services are built on the foundation provided by you donors, volunteers, supporters and friends. Thank you for your dedication to Catholic Social Services and to our shared community here.

I’d like to conclude with a quote from Pope Francis from his message for the World Day of Peace: “Everyone can contribute his or her stone to help build the common home.’ With open hearts and minds to God, let each of us ask yourself: What is my stone? And how can I best use it to build our common home?”

The writer is executive director of Catholic Social Services in Alaska. For more on CSS, call 222-7300 or visit

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