The James Irvine Foundation recognized leaders who have adapted their work and continued to innovate even during the COVID-19 pandemic. See below for a highlight by The James Irvine Foundation featuring our executive director Sherilyn Adams:

The COVID-19 pandemic forced Larkin Street to quickly deploy programs to protect young people’s health and meet the increased demand resulting from emergency shelters closing. Larkin Street partnered with the City of San Francisco to expand its emergency hotel voucher program and converted an underutilized hotel to a temporary shelter.

In partnership with the city, they also created a designated safe sleeping area where youth could stay without fear of victimization or harassment. The space included sanitation facilities, food and water, health screenings, and access to support services. Collectively, the vouchers, hotel, and safe sleeping space provided hundreds of secure beds each night to youth experiencing homelessness and were combined with wraparound services that together contributed to their wellbeing and created stability and pathways out of homelessness. Larkin Street moved this wraparound program model – combining housing with health care, education, and employment services – online and provided socially distanced, in-person delivery methods as needed.

To progress towards a future without youth homelessness, Larkin Street will continue to advocate for youth-specific funding at the federal, state, and local level. This funding ensures young people who are at-risk or have become homeless, have left school, lost employment, or have an increased need for mental health services can access the services they need and deserve.

Lessons Learned

Young people are incredibly resilient, but COVID-19 has exacerbated the existing challenges that many youth face, including housing insecurity, interrupted educations, unemployment, and mental health concerns. Furthermore, the most creative and effective solutions related to COVID-19 or otherwise come from young people with lived experience of homelessness.

Policy Consideration: Input from young people with lived experience of homelessness should be a formal component of the state’s intergenerational and culturally competent human services response to the crisis. Creating youth-focused leadership opportunities, such as including youth commissioners on public boards and commissions, will add important input and insight to the work of public decision-making bodies.

Thank you to The James Irvine Foundation for recognizing Larkin Street!