Teen Feed as a Secure Base

By Josh Horvath, Advocate

While serving as an Advocate for Teen Feed, I often ask myself how do youth find themselves homeless and trying to survive out on the streets?  I currently am a graduate student in counseling psychology at Northwest University, and view a lot of my times at Teen Feed through a psychological perspective.  I’ve learned from the staff that there are numerous reasons a youth might find themselves homeless: from struggling with the challenges of mental illness, to addictions and abusive home lives.  In my studies I have learned about Attachment Theory and the idea of the secure-base.  I have come to believe that many of our guests at Teen Feed are lacking a secure-base in their lives, and that Teen Feed truly can become a secure-base for them.

Attachment Theory explains that the secure-base is formed between an infant and a primary caregiver.  A secure-base is formed when there is mutual enjoyment and empathy shared between the primary care giver and infant.  Secure attachments also need to be continually fostered throughout childhood.  Without a secure-base in childhood, an individual sees the world as a dangerous place, they are uncomfortable in close relationships, and likely will not progress through life with hope for a better future.  In therapy a counselor for many people becomes the first secure-base in a person’s life, because they offer empathy and acceptance.  I see Teen Feed operating in much the same way as a therapist, by being the first secure-base for someone and thus a starting point of change. 

Teen Feed is consistent, and the staff and volunteers demonstrate empathy and total acceptance of every guest.  The idyllic image of healthy family life is of a family coming together, eating dinner and sharing about how their day went. During dinner the good and the bad stuff is okay to share, and mutual support is given.  This is the setting of Teen Feed meal nights, and I believe can serve as a reparative process in many of the guest’s lives.  I sometimes wonder of if this is the first time they have ever experienced eating dinner in this way.

It is an honor to be able to volunteer at Teen Feed.