Pressing On During the Pandemic
When asked what one of the biggest challenges OHB has faced during the Covid-19 pandemic has been, Chief Programs Officer, Brandy Gustoff, quickly replies, “Getting our young people to wear masks at all times. They are teenagers after all!”
Of course, this is just one challenge that we’ve faced at OHB since the onslaught of the Coronavirus, but just as in any other time of crisis, we have not faltered. We are extremely proud that all of our programs have remained operational and continued to serve youth and families throughout the entire pandemic thanks to the support of many of you.
One significant challenge that the young adults in our Independent Living Program have been facing during the Coronavirus outbreak is access to affordable housing. The majority of the young adults in this program live paycheck to paycheck. When you add to this the fact that approximately 20% of them lost their jobs and about 75% of them had their hours reduced due to the pandemic, you can see how quickly access to affordable housing becomes a dire need.
“When housing security changes and unemployment or lessened hours strike, the dominos begin to fall,” said Keenan Page, Independent Living Manager at OHB. “All of this leads to a decreased capability to afford food, daily living costs and the big one, rent. Many of the youth and families I work with cannot afford PPE (personal protective equipment) and many have jobs that you can’t simply work from home. They are on the front lines and largely have the same struggles they did before the pandemic, just intensified by overall less income.”
To help these young adults maintain safe housing, OHB offered support in a number of ways. A reduced rate was contracted with some local hotels and OHB provided housing funding to keep many of the youth safely housed at these hotels. OHB also worked with landlords to help youth negotiate payment arrangements and provided emergency rental assistance.
Additionally, OHB responded to job and food insecurity by providing gift cards for groceries, childcare supplies and other basic necessities. Transportation aid was also offered in the form of gas cards and gift cards for public transportation.
During the pandemic, virtual meetings helped youth stay engaged and connected with their mentors at OHB.
Aside from all of the tangible assistance provided to youth in our Independent Living Program, one of the biggest sources of help came in the simple form of a supportive conversation. “We have tried really hard to stay connected with our youth,” said Keenan. “Whether that’s a little daily text of encouragement, a call to plan the next few weeks’ budget, or a Zoom meeting to really dive deeper and figure out what is happening and what we are going to do together to overcome it.”
We can’t do it without you!
Many of the youth and young families we serve at OHB use every dollar of their income on necessities, leaving no room to budget for emergencies. When a crisis such as COVID-19 hits, these youth and young families are hit especially hard.
Your gift today can provide everything from gas cards, groceries and emergency rent to a warm bed, diapers and Internet access for online classes. Every gift helps!