Summer COVID-19 Update from Executive Director Meagan Hennekam
We are continuing to support homeless young people and families through COVID-19, although challenges remain. I hope you and your family are well.
In the shelter, I’ve been able to keep our capacity at 20 youth, while families remain in hotels, so everyone can keep physically distant. YES staff continue to be diligent with daily screening of all people at the shelter, as well as use of PPE and maintaining physical distance where ever possible. None of this could be happening without support from our community, who have truly come to the rescue through COVID-19.
It’s been a tough time for everyone but the youth experiencing homelessness or precarious housing are even more likely than others to experience mental health challenges because of the pandemic.
COVID-19 and mental health of homeless youth
In a report by Homeless Hub, housing service providers have seen a rise in demand for mental health support, along with a decrease in accessibility of treatment. Having lost access to in-person appointments, support groups, and freedom to come and go as they need to, homeless youth are being tremendously impacted.
In this report, 91% of the homeless youth surveyed had increased feelings of isolation and loneliness. They also reported a significant increase in suicidal thoughts, self-harm, and suicide attempts. I’m sure you can imagine how worrying this is.
The community coming together to help youth and families
Thankfully, our amazing donors and the Emergency Community Support Fund (ECSF) are helping to ensure that young people in shelter and in our RISE Youth Housing Program have access to the internet so they can attend virtual appointments, and connect with friends. With the ECSF, we are increasing the tech capacity within the organization to make sure that youth experiencing homelessness can participate in an increasingly tech-oriented world.
Outreach workers are busy mitigating feelings of isolation any way they can. COVID-19 has been a tough challenge to navigate, but with your support we have been able to find new ways to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our clients.
YES staff and volunteers have been connecting with clients via zoom by doing things like making candles, bath bombs and art. Also, staff are meeting to chat with youth outdoors in parks so they can enjoy in-person company as well as feel the benefits of being in nature.
Our supporters have donated many of the funds and supplies needed to make these activities happen, and they are making a big difference through the pandemic. A great big thank you to all of you who have given to youth and families without a home through COVID-19.
Now let’s work on getting these young people out of homelessness, so they can continue to stay safe. If you are interested in donating to youth and families experiencing homelessness through the pandemic, please visit www.yesshelter.ca.