By Jill Lawson.In addition to providing case management and adjustment counseling for Palmetto Place residents, Jill is a high school social worker, where she works mostly with at-risk students.

You’ve heard the phrase many times: “Home is where your heart is.” I know I use the word “home” multiple times a day, but recently I’ve been thinking about this very one word that has such a profound meaning.

Every day, at my full-time job, I hear teens say “I’m going to the house.” or “I stay at {insert neighborhood name}.” I never hear “I’m going home,” or, “I live at…” Why is that?

Many of my students, for a multitude of reasons, are Unaccompanied Youth. Most couch surf, meaning they are basically homeless and lying their head wherever they can at night until something better comes along. They lack a sense of home. For example, you know that uneasiness you feel if you’re staying away from your own bed for a few nights--maybe due to renovations, or a business trip? Imagine feeling this way every day. I simply can’t.

Fortunately, Palmetto Place is able to provide a home for four Unaccompanied Youth. Palmetto Place is not just a place to stay. It is a home to 20 kids who, for various reasons, have been displaced from their usual place of residency. After I thought about that word, home, I started listening to what our kids say.

“Ms. Jill, when we get home can I show you my project?!”

“Palmetto Place feels like home to me, now, and I feel safe.”

Our goal is to provide the three foundations of Maslow’s Hierachy of Needs--physiological care, safety/security, and love/belonging--so that our residents can achieve the top two portions of the pyramid--self-esteem and self-actualization. But Palmetto Place doesn't just provide a sense of home for our residents. Our house feels like home to our staff, as well! Personally, I can’t think of any other place that I would rather spend holidays than with my Palmetto Place family. Home and family. That’s what we are about.