CEO Message: A Year of COVID-19 March 16, 2021

A Year of COVID-19

Like everyone, San Diego Youth Services has been deeply impacted by the COVID Pandemic. Our hearts go out to all those impacted by this terrible virus.

One year ago our world turned upside down and we had to act quickly to shift gears. We prioritized safety and health while at the same time continuing to meet the needs of some of the most vulnerable youth in our community.

We developed and implemented a hybrid model by investing heavily in technology, while continuing to maintain human contact as much as possible. As we pivoted to telehealth, we continued to provide face-to-face services safely. Our heroic staff were very creative in empowering youth to enhance their housing and economic security.

At the same time, the pandemic greatly highlighted the disparities and injustices that many of our diverse and disadvantaged youth and communities face daily. Thus, we embraced the Black Lives Matter movement and dove deeply into social justice issues impacting our youth. Through our Best Foot Forward Committee, we are examining our own policies and practices to ensure we are providing our services with fairness and equity.

As the year of COVID continued to plague our world, our teams went into high gear with creative solutions to meet the challenges they faced. Food and other housing essentials were delivered to our most needy youth and families during the holidays and throughout the year. Grocery packages, gifts, art supplies, educational materials and other items were routinely driven out to the homes of our youth and families.

Our teams continued to provide access to housing, shelter, rental assistance, hotel vouchers and support as unemployment and other factors related to COVID exacerbated the risk of homelessness. Because many of our youth no longer had their basic needs met as schools moved to a virtual platform, we provided them with laptops, connectivity and other essential school items to ensure our most disadvantaged youth did not fall behind educationally.

We supported schools and teachers with pre-recorded lessons and other materials through our prevention programs to assist them as they navigated teaching remotely. As the mental health needs of our youth and families grew during the pandemic, we provided both telehealth and in-person support for those who were increasingly isolated and struggling with depression and other mental health disorders.

These are just a few of the examples and measures our teams have done this past year.

All this was done with some incredible partners like the County of San Diego, the Food Bank and the Convention Center. A special shout-out goes to CVS who delivered vaccinations on site to ensure our staff are protected as they continue to do the critical work of serving our youth.

Thank you to all of our staff who have performed heroically and to all our youth and families who have been so resilient during this extremely challenging year. I value each and every one of you.

Together we have not only weathered this horrible storm, we have continued to thrive and advance our mission and empower youth on their journey to future success.

Walter Philips
CEO of San Diego Youth Services

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