Gratitude for Impact Spotlight Stories

Meet Homes for the Homeless (HFH), a DMF Youth partner since 2017!

Since inception, DMF Youth has served a unique population of young New Yorkers–homeless youth. Last year, nearly 1 in 10 students in New York City public schools were homeless, many attending DMF Youth’s afterschool programs throughout the city. In addition to our school based programs, DMF Youth partners with Homes for the Homeless (HFH) to offer young residents a place to dance, learn, and grow. 

“Our longstanding partnership with DMF Youth has been so impactful over the years,” says Gretchen Hernandez, Executive Deputy Director of HFH.

“Throughout my time running two of HFH’s shelters, and now as Deputy Executive Director, I’ve watched children experiencing homelessness become empowered by dance—through both the physical and social emotional skill sets reinforced in DMF’s approach and curriculum.”

Just like DMF Youth is more than just a dance or afterschool program, HFH provides more than just a place to sleep. 

On any given day, nearly 530 families with 700 children ages 0 to 18 reside in one of HFH’s five, safe, clean, shelters–their family residences. These family residences provide a host of services focused on HFH’s three pillars: education, employment, and social services designed to meet the immediate and ongoing needs of both parents and children. HFH’s goal is for families who move on from HFH family residences to achieve family and housing stability.

Since 2017, DMF Youth has partnered with HFH to provide a continuum of programs that support the social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development of its residents. Currently, DMF Youth offers programming at two of HFH Bronx sites, tailoring curriculum to fit the needs of residents ages 5-13.  

“Our goal is to not only provide a joyful and creative respite for young HFH residents, but also teach students tangible skills they can use daily to feel happier and healthier,” said Lindi Duesenberg, Executive Director of DMF Youth. 

From mindfulness and mindset, to gratitude and kindness, students are learning key SEL concepts that help shape their self esteem, confidence, and daily autonomy. 

“I use my affirmations when I feel sad at school,” said Jace, a fourth grader who joined programming last month. “They make me feel just a little bit better.”

In addition to its dance and SEL-based curriculum, what sets DMF Youth apart from other afterschool programs is its investment in teaching staff. DMF Youth strategically invests in teaching artists with diverse cultural backgrounds and broad experience in both education and dance. Teaching artists receive ongoing training in Social Emotional Learning, classroom management, and trauma-informed teaching. This training provides them with the expertise necessary to create safe, supportive learning environments. 

“My favorite thing about DMF is the instructors,” said Patricia Striggles, recreation supervisor at the Prospect Family Residence.


“They are full of joy, and it radiates throughout the classroom. When a child is having a difficult time focusing, they can redirect them and get them back on track. You can tell they really have a passion for and care about the kids they are serving.”

A child’s sense of safety, health, education, and overall development can or may be adversely affected by homelessness.  DMF Youth’s partnership with Homes for the Homeless helps children in their care receive the wrap-around support needed to grow and learn with joy. 

To continue providing impactful programs to homeless youth, we need your support! Donate today and you will join us in providing joy and life-skill development to MORE youth in the new year.