When the pandemic swept in, so did unprecedented events. Families were laid-off. Early care providers and educational programs either downsized or stood at the front lines to serve children. A fog of uncertainty hung over the world. But something else happened: communities from all over, including Nebraska, stepped up to help one another. Connected Youth Initiative is one of them.
In honor of Foster Care Awareness Month, we will keep a pulse on our unconnected youth. Due to their pre-existing isolation, they may go unseen. At Nebraska Children and Families Foundation, as an organization that envisions all youth, children, and families thriving, these stories are essential.
Long before the pandemic, Connected Youth Initiative’s Project Everlast Omaha, its partners, and the community have offered programs to assist unconnected youth. The term “unconnected youth” refers to young people between the 14-25 years of age who have experienced the foster care system, juvenile justice system and/or probation, homelessness, or human trafficking.
As no strangers to crises themselves, despite their capabilities, these young people may find themselves cut off from their community, resources, and families.
When COVID-19 paid its unwelcome visit to Nebraska, Project Everlast Omaha was there to help. Since March 13, 2020, Project Everlast Omaha has delivered over 80 food pantries to young people in Council Bluffs, Omaha, and Bellevue.
COVID has indeed increased unemployment, housing insecurity, and a lesser-known but familiar symptom: loneliness. For the 8,000 unconnected youth estimated to reside in the Omaha metro area, isolation is nothing new, but every bit as challenging.
In addition to feeling alienated, these young people’s basic needs may go unaddressed. Project Everlast Omaha (PEO) and its partners decided to step in and create mobile pantries in addition to those supplemented by the community.
These portable pantries were implemented to help youth who don’t possess a reliable mode of transport. PEO reasoned that, instead of young people risking their health by taking public transportation, why not bring the pantries to them?
In launching the mobile pantry, the team also considered parents with children, especially those who are single parenting. Without an accessible food source, these families would either be forced to leave their children unattended, or risk their families’ health and transport their children across town.
The pantries’ contents include meat, cheese, and non-perishable items. Young people may request diapers, baby wipes, and travel-size hygiene products as well. We are grateful to those community members who donated items to support this initiative.
Pantries will deliver on a weekly, rolling basis to a list of young people who are designated as needing these supplies.
Project Everlast Omaha and the new mobile pantries are one of the many supports and services that are part of the Connected Youth Initiative, which recently received a moderate evidence rating! Click here for more details.