Back in March we sent you an update on how our programs were changing due to COVID-19. We often tell you that we couldn’t do what we do without you, and it’s because it is true. You’re an important part of this community, so it’s important to us that as things change you remain updated on our work. Before we begin this holiday season we wanted to provide a comprehensive update on where things stand in each of our programs:
- Second Story for Teens in Crisis has welcomed youth into our short-term home throughout the pandemic, though family counseling sessions are now held virtually. Staff work extremely hard to keep themselves and youth safe from illness, since they are sharing the same physical spaces. We are encouraged that young people and their families are attending even more counseling sessions than in the past — both because the need has increased this year, and also because the virtual format makes it easier for people to attend.
- All of the young women in Second Story for Young Mothers struggled with isolation and anxiety this year. Many of them lost their jobs due to the pandemic, but were nervous about the risks of starting a new and unknown job or putting their children in daycare. And while many of the young women received unemployment benefits, now that the extra benefits have run out they are relying more on our support to fill in the gaps. For extra support, we provided additional therapy sessions, and at least half of the young women participated in counseling twice a week.
- The need for Second Story for Homeless Youth’s support is extremely high, but we’re finding it more challenging to find safe housing for youth – housing scams are more common than ever, and each young person is requiring more of our resources and support because of their deep level of need. Youth who are in high school feel more alone without in-person support in the classroom, and though they’re eager to return, they are also concerned for their safety. To help meet this gap, many youth have taken advantage of our free mental health counseling. We are also continuing to deliver care packages of food and hygiene products and increase our rent support for youth who are laid off from their jobs.
- Our Family Resource Centers were closed for drop-in services in the earlier days of the pandemic, but have reopened by appointment only. Members of the community can speak with our staff about applying for benefits, translating documents, and getting connected to other community resources.
The Teen Center and Safe Youth Projects are still not open in their traditional format, but youth can now schedule appointments to meet with their program coordinators! This is essential for youth who don’t have good access to technology as they learn virtually. They can also receive tutoring from the program coordinator by appointment. Until we can safely meet in person, we continue to gather virtually as a group.
- We continue doing Food Distribution in Culmore and Springfield two days a week, providing food for hundreds of families. We give out vegetables, nonperishables, protein, and meal donations from local restaurants. Staff are balancing their roles at the after-school programs and family resources with the added task of organizing these distribution efforts.
The needs of the youth and families we serve have, as a whole, increased significantly this year. Thankfully, your support made it possible for Second Story to step in during this critical moment. But there are still many uncertainties ahead of us and we expect these increased needs to continue into 2021. Second Story is committed to doing our best to do all that we can to assist youth and families during this challenging time, and we’re counting on your support to help us do it.