No Youth Left Behind During Pandemic

ECF grants helps Boyle Street Community Services implement COVID-19 Youth Coordinated Response Initiative

Under normal circumstances, Boyle Street Community Services is a hub of support for vulnerable populations across Edmonton — including hundreds of young people.

But the COVID-19 pandemic imposed new challenges on how those services can be accessed, especially by youth.

“They truly have been impacted in a different way,” said Krysta Fitzgerald, Deputy Executive Director of Boyle Street Community Services. “So many organizations have less staff on site and less ability to serve in the same way. I think youth probably feel disoriented and a little more isolated, because of so many changes to all of the programming across the city.”

In this difficult situation, Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF) stepped in to offer much-needed support. Boyle Street received $50,000 through ECF’s Emergency Community Support Fund (ECSF), to implement a COVID-19 Youth Coordinated Response Initiative. The fund is designed to help these organizations carry out their vital work to ensure no one is left behind.

“For those of us who can work from home and remain connected through computers and phones, the challenges for our homeless population and the agencies working with them are almost inconceivable,” Craig Stumpf-Allen, ECF’s Director of Grants and Community Engagement says. “By working together, they can address those in a coordinated and effective way.”

Together, the Canadian Red Cross, Community Foundations of Canada and United Way Centraide Canada are collaborating with the Government of Canada to flow ECSF support to those who need it most right now.

Immediately, the funding allowed Boyle Street to recover from a non-pandemic emergency — a flood that ruined their stockpile of everyday supplies. Beyond that, the ECSF has allowed them to purchase two computers for connected support video conferences, helping clients link safely and directly to the services they need.

“What that means is, during a pandemic, we don’t need to drive the youth around, or send them off on their own with a map of how to find all these agencies,” Fitzgerald said. “We can click on all the things that we need in order for that youth to be connected right then and there on a video call.”

The funding has also allowed Boyle Street to hire a manager to oversee the initiative, which involves partnership with three other sites: Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society, C5 North East Hub & Ubuntu, and Youth Empowerment and Support Services (YESS). This creates a connected, city-wide approach to supporting vulnerable youth, which is exactly what current research is calling for.

“This whole initiative is based on research that was [released] prior to the pandemic, that recommended we do this,” Fitzgerald said.

So this is more than a temporary fix: This initiative sets Boyle Street and its partners ahead in how they support our community.

“We think it will last far past the pandemic,” Fitzgerald said. “The hope is that this changes the system.”

Learn more about the Emergency Community Support Fund.