We even discovered a silver lining,
many youth who do not usually come to the physical gatherings due to social anxiety participated in the virtual event! “It was a big success and showcased the relationship our staff has with these youth, Saavedra said. “We will continue to host virtual events and find other ways to stay connected in the coming weeks.”
The Our Space LGBTQ program has transitioned its Wednesday drop-in hours at the community center to a virtual meet-up and had a number of youth show up for the inaugural session. Diego Basdeo Fitzgerald, program manager for Our Space, reported that the youth “sure appreciated the space” given their current isolation at home and they are working to find the best time/day to continue the virtual groups.
Connecting Youth with School Resources
Education is always a priority, and we are working to help with needed technology for youth who are still in school. This might mean picking up computers or Chromebooks from schools, making sure they have WiFi at home, or helping them stay connected to their teachers while they navigate the new world of at-home classrooms and “distance learning.” While many youth appreciate the guidance of their Real Alternatives case managers to help them stay on track academically, one student proactively contacted his case manager for support, determined to maintain the 3.5 GPA he had worked so hard to obtain.
Empathy and Connection
Although challenging for us all, it’s important to remember that youth living in transitional housing are experiencing this social isolation in a very different way from many of us. They are not baking cookies with their mom or going on neighborhood walks with their dad or having family game nights. “It’s really important that we’re cognizant that their experience is different, and that we’re aware of different circumstances. What someone else can do when stuck at home is very different than the reality these youth are living,” said Noelle Moss, director of development and communications at Side by Side.
Paying for Rent and Basic Necessities
The Real Alternatives program pays for rent and basic necessities for all youth under 21, and that has not changed. For youth 21-24, the program normally subsidizes rent, while the youth cover the remainder with money they earn. But during these uncertain times, Real Alternatives is stepping in to cover their rent in full. “Employment is not a priority right now,” explained Saavedra. “It’s more important that these youth take care of themselves. There is a lot of stress. They need to know that they have a roof over their head, food in the fridge, and adults who care about them and are looking out for them.”
“I have been heartened watching both our staff and our youth rise to the challenges of recent events,” said Saavedra. “Growth is happening even in this climate. That’s a testament to the relationships between our staff and the youth, and it’s a beautiful thing to witness.”
How You Can Help