As California began responding to the COVID-19 crisis with restrictions on gatherings and Shelter in Place/Safer at Home orders, the staff of our San Francisco and Solano County Independent Living Skills Programs (ILSP) recognized the challenges coming their way. It was immediately obvious that closing our offices and cancelling scheduled ILSP events was necessary to protect the health of our youth, staff, and the larger community. But it was also clear that the young people who rely on ILSP’s support and community connection would need us even more as they faced uncertainty and disruptions in their lives.
Program Managers Susan Kimball (Solano) and Marcie Johnson (San Francisco) immediately began working on solutions.
The first question Susan and Marcie faced was: how do you keep a “drop-in” service running when dropping in isn’t an option?
There was a simple answer. Focus on reaching out.
Phone and video calls with youth have replaced our traditional open drop-in hours as staff work to find out how our young people are coping and what they need. Of course, finding out what young people need is only the first step. From grocery assistance to mental health services, staff are working every day to provide for young people’s physical and emotional well-being. They are coordinating with youth and their social workers for delivery of needed goods, and sharing information on additional community resources available.
And while in-person workshops are out of the question for now, video conferencing is allowing staff to pivot to online workshops accessible to participants in both counties. The new approach launched last week with a session addressing an important topic for the current situation: Practicing self-care to reduce stress and anxiety. These online workshops will continue weekly until we are able to re-open our offices and return to in-person events safely.