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SAY is an Essential Business as a Social Service Agency Under the “Shelter-in-Place” Order

By Anita Maldonado, SAY Chief Executive Officer

Each day we are waking up to new updates regarding COVID-19 and an ever growing list of changes we must make in our daily lives to slow the spread of the virus. This can bring up a lot of fear, anxiety, and even grief as plans are canceled, social distancing happens, and daily routines are completely altered. It’s a lot to process, but I’m grateful to be part of this strong, resilient community. As we have proven before, I know we will face this crisis together with our minds sharpened and hearts open.

As we continue to monitor and navigate the situation closely, I want to update you on our services and the actions SAY is taking to help protect our youth, staff, and community.

SAY is an Essential Business:

As a social service agency, SAY’s services are considered essential business and activities under the “shelter-in-place” order issued by Sonoma County’s Public Health Officer on 3/18/20. While the shelter-in-place order is in effect, we have adjusted our services and staffing as much as possible to increase social distancing and minimize exposure, while still supporting the most vulnerable youth in our community.

HOUSING/CRISIS SERVICES: Our housing and crisis teams are focused on keeping young people stabilized in their housing programs, informed about the current situation, and educated on good handwashing and social distancing practices. SAY’s crisis and street outreach teams are working tirelessly to support homeless and vulnerable youth. Our 24/7 Youth Crisis Hotline remains open: 1-888-729-0012. This is the fastest and safest way for youth to seek help right now, including access to drop-in support, supplies and shelter.

COUNSELING SERVICES: SAY’s mental health clinicians are working to support clients with phone therapy sessions, rather than meeting in-person. Youth and families with Medi-Cal insurance that need counseling services can call the County's Access Line: 707-565-6900. We are also collaborating with local schools to determine how we can best provide youth with mental health services during this time and once schools re-open. We know this experience will bring up many past traumas for our students in Sonoma County and SAY’s grief and counseling services will help youth process this event.

CAREERS SERVICES: Our Career Services staff and case managers are reaching out by phone to support youth in our employment programs. Over the next several weeks, staff will be assisting youth in filing for unemployment for lost wages and accessing benefits like food and medical care during this time. Our school-based team is also working on innovative ways to support local teachers and college and career counselors with virtual content.

Precautions and Safety Measures:

We are increasing the frequency and rigor of cleaning and sanitization in all our facilities, including the SAY Finley Dream Center, Coffee House Teen Shelter, and Tamayo Village (and we’re coaching youth residents on these skills!).

When possible, we are limiting the number of staff on-site to essential care providers to support social distancing and the shelter-in-place order.

We have placed a temporary hold on all volunteer roles, public tours, and group volunteer activity on-site. This will allow volunteers to remain safely at home, as well as decrease the amount of exposure our youth residents will experience over the next several weeks.

We have canceled our annual spring fundraiser, SAY Soirée, scheduled for April 4. This is SAY’s largest fundraiser of the year and directly supports our vital services for homeless and vulnerable youth in Sonoma County.

How You Can Help:

Make a financial donation today to help SAY respond to the needs of our youth and community.

As we learned over the last few years, nonprofit services like SAY’s become even more essential for vulnerable populations during times of disaster and uncertainty. Thank you for being part of our SAY family - it is because of generous supporters like you that we are able to care for vulnerable youth who rely on SAY.

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