Headquartered in Pasadena, Hillsides serves children and youth experiencing emotional and behavioral challenges due to serious trauma, including many in foster care.
Under normal circumstances, Hillsides’ transition-aged youth (ages 16-25) are already at great risk for homelessness, hunger, and mental/emotional health challenges. As they “age out” of the foster care system, these young people are left to navigate adulthood, including securing jobs and housing, without the support of family and often bearing the weight of a lifetime of trauma. As with so many other vulnerable populations, the COVID-19 crisis hit these young people in devastating ways.
The Youth Moving On program operates a Peer Resource drop-in center for access to immediate assistance and long-term supportive services, as well as an apartment building dedicated to housing transition-age youth. As the pandemic spread, “Safer at Home” orders forced the closure of the Peer Resource Center, and 17 out of 18 residents in the Youth Moving On housing program lost their jobs.
Hillsides’ immediate priority was to stabilize their young clients and ensure the safety of the youth housed in their apartment building. Peer housing liaison Dennys Valle lives in the apartment complex and quickly became a lifeline for the young adults as they sheltered in place. Hillsides provided rental assistance and grocery funds to all the building’s residents, and Dennys became a personal shopper and emotional support system for 18 youth. You can read more about Dennys’s remarkable work with Youth partner Moving On clients during the pandemic on the Hillsides website.
As we move into the fourth month of COVID-19-related quarantine and economic crisis, Hillsides anticipates a greater need for its services due to child abuse and neglect during months of lockdown, as well as mental health support for children and caregivers. The Peer Resource Center re-opened with limited hours three weeks ago, and transition-age youth have resumed visiting the center for grocery gift cards and other supplies, as well as check-ins with Hillsides staff. In the first week, 14 youth visited the center. Last week, it was 24 youth.
It is the dedication and flexibility of people like Dennys and his many coworkers at Hillsides that have helped the organization pivot and expand their services. Whether it is groceries, telehealth appointments, caseworker visits, or rent money, Hillsides is working hard to ensure that transition-age youth – who already face so many challenges – do not slip through the ever-growing cracks in our system during this pandemic.