A new report, “On the COVID-19 Frontline and Hurting”—authored by UC Berkeley School of Public Health Associate Professor Coco Auerswald and student members of i4Y and the Berkeley Public Health Community Action Team—reveals the impact that the COVID-19 crisis is having on providers who work with youth experiencing homelessness (YEH) in Alameda County, California.
The report also sheds a light on the impact of the crisis on the youth themselves, who are among the populations that are at the greatest risk of both being infected by COVID-19 and being affected by the social and economic consequences of the pandemic, including being unable to meet basic needs for food, shelter, and safety.
The study showed that more than ever, providers for YEH are the lifelines for their clients during the COVID-19 pandemic and that though Bay Area residents are well over two months into shelter-in-place orders, the needs of YEH are more urgent as each day passes.
The report has two parts. The first is an analysis of the population of YEH in Alameda County for one year, from (July 2018-July 2019) and in the City of Berkeley over an 11-year period (2006-2017). The second is a report of interviews with service providers for youth experiencing homelessness in Berkeley, including providers in both Berkeley and Oakland.
Key findings from the analysis:
Youth experiencing homelessness in Alameda County and the City of Berkeley are vastly more likely to be Black, American Indian/Alaskan Native, and Hawaiian/Pacific Islander than the Alameda County population overall.
Youth experiencing homelessness most need:
Public restrooms to stay open and sufficiently serviced to keep them clean and sanitary. Showers and laundry facilities need to be made available.
Easy access to masks and safely packaged food, phones and computers, electricity to charge phones, and to Wi-Fi.
Accurate information so that they can access services and safely shelter in place.
Service providers most need:
Funding for disinfection and hygiene supplies as well as ample personal protective equipment, such as masks.
Access to financial support, including hazard pay, and to Wi-Fi, phones, and computers so they can effectively work from home when possible.
Mental health support.
Up-to-date information so that services can be provided safely.
In addition, both youth and staff need COVID-19 testing on demand regardless of symptoms.