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April COVID-19 Update from Executive Director Meagan Hennekam

Posted on April 9, 2020 in Current News

Things are continuously evolving, but as I write this, we’ve moved all our families with children to a local hotel. This will help give parents and their children the space and safety they need. It also keeps vulnerable populations, like one young woman who is currently seven months pregnant, safe.

This relocation means that the emergency shelter has more space for our youth clients, so they are able to keep some physical distance. I have also hired special cleaners to sanitize the shelter, top to bottom, three times per week.

But still, I’m worried about the youth in shelter

They are being told to distance themselves from a community that is sometimes their only source of comfort. In the shelter, their one common space has been made off limits to keep everyone safe, and they have little to do in their rooms.

I’m worried about youth in our RISE Youth Housing Program

They have a home to be in and good supports in place, but without a trusted adult in their lives, they have been calling 911 in the middle of the night, because they believe they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. They are scared, and need reassurance that they are going to be ok.

I’m worried about youth in the community who we know are close to being homeless

Either because they are stuck at home in a situation that’s dangerous for them, or because they are on their own at an early age with little or no support. Services that they had access to before COVID-19 have either disappeared, or have moved online, and many don’t have access to the internet. How will they cope if we are in for months of physical distancing?

We’re coming up with a plan

I’m in the process of coming up with a plan to increase support for the most vulnerable youth in our community. We have already assessed all of the youth to see what their needs are, and how COVID-19 has impacted their supports. Now we need to get those (and more) supports in place to ensure they remain as safe as possible throughout the pandemic.

Last week, our staff started giving out care kits to our clients living on their own. This is a lifeline for youth who need our love and support right now. We want to continue this as long as it’s needed, but right now our resources are running out.

Help us replenish

A donation from you will add important items to care kits like additional healthy food, soap, and disinfecting wipes. For families with young kids, your support will allow me to add additional diapers, baby wipes, and cleaning products.

Help us prepare

Outreach workers have come up with a pandemic preparedness plan for youth and have gone over it with each them so that they know what to do to stay safe, and when to call for help. This plan, created by YES staff, is now being used by outreach teams across Ontario.  Our team will keep staying in touch with youth regularly to make sure they know we’re there for them over the next months.

Putting this plan into action has meant we’ve had to spend thousands of dollars on personal protective equipment for our staff. Because of a global shortage, the cost of these items has been very high. And already, we need more.

A donation from you, will mean we can continue to visit and support youth who need us now more than ever.

Help us make youth safe

The youth are safest, if they have a home to be in. For that reason, we are trying to quickly complete the renovations required at our new 12-plex building so that we can move youth in to those units and out of the shelter.

With your support, we can spring into action, finish up those renovations and move more youth into secure housing.

For the renos, care kits, PPE and additional supports needed in the face of COVID-19, I need to raise $100,000 as soon as possible. This amount will ensure that we can properly support homeless youth through COVID-19. I promise to make your donation count and commit to keeping you informed on what is happening as you help pull YES through this crisis.

Thank you for reading this. On behalf of all the people you are helping, I wish you well, and please accept our love and gratitude.

Meagan Hennekam, Executive Director, YES Shelter for Youth and Families