A Message from Our CEO & Board of Directors
Dear Friends and Family,
We hope that all of you are safe and healthy during this unprecedented time in our nation. Something that this pandemic has painfully highlighted is the disparity that exists in our nation for many individuals, families and communities. Compounding the nation’s pandemic has been the racial trauma and violence that has again come to the forefront this past week with the death of George Floyd. Our hearts go out to those individuals, families and communities who have been impacted by these crises. Moreover, we know that many of you are yourselves struggling and dealing with loss, sadness, anger and fear.
At San Diego Youth Services, we see this disparity daily as many of the youth we work with are disproportionally black, brown, LGBTQ+, poor and otherwise disenfranchised by mainstream society. Black youth and other youth of color are disproportionally represented in the child welfare and juvenile justice system, have higher rates of mental health and substance abuse disorders and are at much higher risk of dropping out of school and becoming homeless. These youth are much more likely to be victimized, including being commercially sexually exploited. All these factors have led to many of the youth we serve being severely traumatized.
During these challenging times, San Diego Youth Services is more committed than ever to providing essential services to the youth of our city in every way possible. San Diego Youth Services is a safe space and an advocate for all youth. We stand with our Black youth, allies and communities advocating for an end to racism and social injustice, everywhere. We continue to work to ensure that all youth, including our Black youth, can be safe in their communities and afforded equal opportunities and access to healthcare, education, employment and housing.
We stand with our Black youth, allies and communities advocating for an end to racism and social injustice, everywhere. We continue to work to ensure that all youth, including our Black youth, can be safe in their communities and afforded equal opportunities and access to healthcare, education, employment and housing.
Our team has continued working on the frontline to meet the critical needs of youth. Our shelter and other housing programs continue to provide safe havens for youth experiencing homelessness and our drop-in centers are still open on a modified basis where youth experiencing homelessness (including those who are victims of human trafficking) can still receive services, albeit while observing the recommended CDC procedures. Youth can stop by for food, do laundry, take a shower, check their e-mail and obtain access to housing and other resources.
In addition, our outreach teams continue to connect with youth on the streets and in the community. As an example, San Diego Youth Services was asked to intervene at the Convention Center to assist those transition aged youth (TAY) experiencing homelessness who were sheltered there. Within a month, our team helped to connect more than 30 youth in the Convention Center to housing and other resources.
Within our other community-based programs, our staff continue to make home visits and meet youth in the community to check in with them and deliver care packages of food, toiletries, clothing, games and other essential items. Our teams have implemented tele-mental health and other virtual services to continue to keep our youth engaged and connected. Even our school-based programs are reaching out to students virtually to continue to promote mental health, provide suicide prevention and education, educate about and prevent teen pregnancy and STDs, and provide diversion services to keep youth out of the juvenile justice system.
Because of our continued outreach and work with schools, our team was asked to provide mental health and emotional support to high school students who experienced the tragic loss of two of their fellow students who were murdered in a domestic violence incident.
We cannot continue to meet the needs of our youth and families without the help of others. During this pandemic, we have been heartened by the outpouring of support from our friends and families in the community. We have received donations of face coverings, gloves, soap and sanitation supplies, grocery gift cards, monetary donations and other support for our staff and the youth we serve. We thank all of you who have stepped up to help!
During these crises, San Diego Youth Services has continued to be committed to the safety and well-being of our staff, youth, families and the communities we serve. Because we provide “essential services,” we have also continued to ensure that the youth and families we serve have their critical needs met and access to the help they seek. Finally, we continue to strive to make the world a better place for all youth by speaking out against injustice and to address the inequities that our racially diverse and other disenfranchised youth face.
Thank you for caring about the youth and families we serve and for continuing to support our mission.
Stay safe and healthy.
San Diego Youth Services CEO Walter Philips and Board of Directors