In light of the recent pandemic, we look forward to sharing positive stories about how our clients and community members are responding. We know this is a challenging time for many, and we are here to support you. We hope that by sharing these very brief stories, others will feel they are not alone. We encourage everyone to lift up one another and share their stories.
YouthCare is an organization that works to end youth homelessness and to ensure that young people are valued for who they are and empowered to achieve their potential. We connected with them in early April to learn more about how they are adapting amid the COVID-19 crisis.
“YouthCare serves some of our community’s most vulnerable young people. We cannot shut down, even in dire times. Right now, our priority is to continue providing essential and life-saving services to young people while mitigating the risk of exposure for young people, staff, and our community. Here are some of the ways we’ve adapted in order to continue our work.
Essential Infrastructure: To ensure for everyone’s safety, we have made changes to our operations and the ways we can receive support, including closing our main office to the public and temporarily suspending volunteer support. We have opened up an urgent pantry in our administrative office’s basement so that our programs can have daily access to food. And we’ve moved all fundraising—including our annual luncheon—to online platforms.
Our Programs: While YouthCare offers a comprehensive range of services to help young people reach lasting stability, right now we are consolidating resources and teams to keep young people safe through this crisis. We have temporarily suspended our education, employment, and prevention programs to focus exclusively on the core services of food, shelter, and housing. Staff from suspended programs have been redeployed to help run core programs and keep young people safe.
Our housing and shelter programs are now serving a fixed group of young people with 24/7 staffing, meals, and supports. Young people are being asked to stay inside per Governor Inslee’s stay-at-home order. We have increased indoor activities and are supporting young people to take breaks and safe walks outside.
This pandemic has brought new challenges and lessons that continue to humble us every day. One of the biggest challenges is ensuring for health and safety in shelter/congregate care settings. Shelters rely on communal space and resources: shared sleeping quarters, meals, laundry, bathrooms, etc. Young people do not have the ability to go to their own room or the privilege of privacy. We are trying to be as creative with space as possible—repurposing classrooms, conference rooms, and office space—and have implemented increased cleaning cycles and disinfectant procedures.
Another challenge is the limitation of movement. We find ourselves grappling with the core tension between personal freedom and collective safety—navigating the complicated balance of keeping our doors open and shut at the same time. Like all of us, young people are not used to such stringent expectations, confined space, and limited movement, and the long hours and level of strain are taxing on staff as well.
We’ve always known that our youth and staff are resilient. This pandemic is testing the strength of that resilience—and we’re learning about the depth of our courage, resolve, nimbleness, and capacity to problem-solve. With every setback or new anxiety, people are still willing to help in whatever way they can—from our community to our incredible staff. They are undeterred. This is why we’re able to continue serving young people through crisis.
We’re continually blown away by all our fellow nonprofits working hard to continue serving our community, and we send thoughts of encouragement to all nonprofits affected by this pandemic. Non-profits are part of our emergency response system and their staff are first responders. The non-profit sector has always provided life-saving services—but even more so right now. Our appreciation for their dedication and commitment cannot be captured in words.
Our staff keeps us going! They are doing heroic work every day in these uncertain times. They each hold a deep passion for our mission and the potential of every young person. The depth of that commitment right now is breathtaking to witness and motivates all of us to do the best work we can for young people.”
– Nicole Phaysith, Communications Specialist at YouthCare
Learn more about the YouthCare and how you can support their mission and programs on their website: https://youthcare.org/
We would love to hear how your organization has been adapting to provide services to your clients and how we can support you during this time. Please reach out to us online here.