The new impacts of COVID (and how we’re able to help)

Posted on February 24, 2022 in Current News

Right now, youth in shelter aren’t thinking about COVID at all. They are thinking about surviving to the next day.

But that doesn’t mean COVID hasn’t made it much much tougher for youth and families experiencing homelessness. Here’s how the latest variant is impacting the homeless population in Peterborough.

Outbreaks in the shelter system

When YES has an outbreak, that means clients staying in shelter can remain, but new young people and families who come to us for warmth and safety, have to be turned away. In the winter especially, this can be devastating.

Currently, YES supporters are helping us purchase the tests and additional PPE we need to put a protocol in place that will help minimize the time spent in outbreak, and ensure we have the staff needed at all times to keep the shelter safe and operational.

There are far fewer services available

Health care services have decreased for all of us, but what about those who depend on them several times per month? Many young people in shelter have significant health issues and rely on emergency health services very regularly.

When people are mandated to work from home, most social services go online. So for our many of our clients who don’t have access to the internet, those services disappear. That means that many crucial appointments with mental health and addiction supports are no longer an option.

Also, because of the current restrictions, people who are sleeping rough (outdoors), don’t have a place to shower or do laundry.

We have a lot of art around the shelter that has been made by talented young people.

Fewer opportunities for personal connection

One-on-one support has decreased significantly, and opportunities to gather, bond, and create friendships are extremely limited. Extreme isolation is already something that youth who have experienced homelessness are at risk of. COVID has made it almost a certainty.

Meeting places are closed, school and programs are cancelled, and even dinner in shelter is eaten in shifts to minimize interaction.

Affordable housing is not available

Very few of our clients are able to find housing that they can afford right now. There is a housing crisis in our community that hasn’t improved through the pandemic. The units that are available, are simply not within the price range of people who collect governmental financial assistance. This makes for very few options for youth and families in shelter.

Because of the support we get from our incredible community, we remain here, in person, for the youth and families who need us

Here are some of the ways you’ve helped us make a difference to youth and families through this latest lockdown.

YES Staff Kate with a food box about to be driven out to a local family.
  1. We continue to offer Emergency Shelter with three meals each day, access to laundry and full bathroom facilities, and the personal, individualized support of a YES Outreach Worker.
  2. YES Staff continue to help, in person, those who need us. With increased PPE, and significant safety measures, we have been able to continue to offer one-on-one support to youth and families through the pandemic.  This touch point has been a lifeline for many.
  3. With help from Second Harvest, Kawartha Food Share, Nourish , we’ve amped up our food program to better serve the people in the community who are food-insecure. And we can now deliver food boxes to youth and families who are at-risk of homelessness or in our RISE Youth Housing Program.
  4. We’ve been able to ensure youth and families in our programs have the basic things they need to be comfortable. Cozy socks, underwear, soap, a toothbrush. We have enough to provide items like this these to all of our clients, because of the wonderful generosity of our friends and neighbours.
  5. We’ve provided tablets and laptops to clients who need access to the internet in order to access extremely important services that are only available online.
  6. We’ve helped to coordinate Vaccination Clinics for clients in shelter and in the RISE Youth Housing Program where vaccines were administered onsite.
  7. Donations of art supplies and books have helped us to offer an easy way for youth in shelter to occupy their time in meaningful and therapeutic way.

We’re grateful to have the chance to do our best for young people and families, but our frontline staff have become extremely tired. YES staff have been working through the pandemic, navigating their own health risks, while supporting an extremely vulnerable population who needs in-person help.

But we remain motivated, and there is still so much work to do to help young people avoid homelessness, stay safe, and become stably housed. Our priority now is to make sure we continue to be there or young people and families who need us. Thanks for helping this happen.