COVID Times: An Interview with Beca McIntosh and Danny San Filippo -

COVID Times: An Interview with Beca McIntosh and Danny San Filippo

Beca McIntosh (she/her/hers) is the Program Manager for The Source, our Daytime Drop-In Center and Emergency Shelter. Our Emergency Shelter offers youth experiencing homelessness a safe place to sleep along with individualized case management – helping young people gain employment, enroll in education, reunify with family, and/or move into safe and stable housing. Our Drop-In Center offers hot meals, laundry, showers, case management, and an array of pro-social and recreational activities. We also have a GED program that takes place twice a week, a nurse and doctor on-site every Wednesday, and mental health support throughout the week.

Danny San Filippo (he/him/his) is the Program Manager for Chase House, our Residential Care Program in South Boulder. Chase House provides services for youth ages 12-18 who have been placed by the Colorado Department of Human Services. While this level of placement is not considered foster care, it is part of that same system. Staff in this program work with youth, the Department of Human Services, and the youth’s families when appropriate, to emphasize their strengths and gain new skills so they can discharge to a family member, foster home, kinship opportunity, etc.

As Program Managers, Beca and Danny manage all the programmatic implementation and ongoing operations at each program. They also supervise the 40+ staff that work directly in their programs. Beca and Danny both bring such heart, humor, and dedication to their work. We are grateful to have these two as role models for the young people at TGTHR.

These times during COVID-19 are challenging for all of us in unique ways, but there is also so much we can be grateful for. Can you share some of the gratitude you feel during this pandemic?

Beca (The Source): “The community support has been overwhelming! It is incredibly inspiring to see everyone coming together to support the young people that we serve even while everyone is being affected. Going into this pandemic was of course uncharted territory and to see the response with donations of meals, games, and basic need supplies…I can’t express how grateful we as an organization are but also how thankful the youth are to be a part of such an amazing community. We couldn’t do the work we do without volunteers and community support. I am also so grateful for the staff who work in our programs. Their ability to adapt to changes on short notice in regards to our programming and services, and their eagerness to consistently show up each and every day to provide the best care to our youth has been remarkable. Even though everyone has faced hardships throughout this experience, our staff has not hesitated to step up and put our clients first. I am so proud to work alongside all of them.”

Danny (Chase House): “For starters, we have our health and safety! Our youth and staff, for the most part, have remained healthy and we have not had any confirmed cases of COVID-19. Additionally, donors and volunteers have done a phenomenal job of contributing food, goods, and money; our direct care staff keep showing up and supporting youth like the absolute rock stars that they are; our senior leadership has been thoughtful and pragmatic; counties we work closely with have been very responsive to shifting needs; and schools provided youth with tools for online learning. I cannot express enough how thankful I am for how people have shown up in the community and in our TGTHR community.”

In what ways have the youths’ lives changed as a result of COVID-19?

Beca (The Source): “Young people are resilient but we’ve definitely seen some impacts because of COVID-19. We have had young people who lost their jobs because their place of employment closed. Someone who was working towards independent housing now has to find other means of employment to continue working towards their goals. We have had youth who previously did not need resources now need them because their parents are no longer stable.”

Danny (Chase House): “In terms of what has changed, a lot of it looks like it does for the rest of the country. Some of youth no longer work; all of our youth are now doing schooling online; they can only leave the house for essential needs; they aren’t able to engage in their community based activities (i.e. go to the gym, music lessons, etc.). Our youth are incredibly resilient and work with our staff on ways in which they are able to meet some of their same needs in the house. This looks like doing art therapy online, virtual tutoring, video sessions or taking walks with family members when that is able and appropriate to happen (meaning people have gone through a screening process).”

What are some of the unique struggles you have witnessed for various folks? 

Beca (The Source): “I think the biggest one we see is youth who access services without any of their vital documents and are ready to transition out of shelter but there is a complete hold on the process because we can’t access services like the DMV to obtain their documents.”

Danny (Chase House): “I would say online schooling has been more difficult for our youth that it would be for the average kid. First of all, it is not unusual that our youth may need some extra support with school work and the lack of things being in person has seemed to be hindering some asking for help. Additionally, everyone is doing school from home right now; not everyone is doing school from home with up to eight teenagers in the house. Things have not been uniform among teachers and schools. Some people have less work and/or less time they need to focus on school, which has definitely led to an additional difficulty for focusing on school work.”

What are some strengths of the youth you have seen during this all?

Beca (The Source): “Wow, so many. The youth that are currently in our shelter program have been incredibly understanding of what is happening across the nation and have really adapted to the program changes we have made. They are still working on the goals that they can and still have a great outlook on the future. We’ve seen youth who, maybe had a different main goal, pivot to focus on education and really start to engage in the GED process again. We’ve also gotten creative with some of our activities at The Source and seeing the youth remain positive and enjoy things like playing guitar hero or creating artwork has been really fun to be a part of.”

Danny (Chase House): “I think we have seen the strengths we have always seen from our youth. These youth have had so much to overcome and we are constantly seeing amazing ways they cope with it. This is simply a different opportunity for them to flex those strengths. Our youth have used art, exercise, media, music, and each other to cope with things; they speak with staff about what their needs are and advocate for themselves; they use the internet for school, fun, therapy, and to connect with family as well as friends; they’ve given themselves projects like reorganizing rooms, painting a pride wall, decorating, and doing make-up for each other.” 

The word community is a buzzword these days, until we actually experience it in real time. What does community mean to you? Can you describe how you have seen these folks create a community together? 

Beca (The Source): “Community to me is embodied by people coming together to meet the needs of those around them, especially when those needs are in uncharted territory. Our community’s ability to adapt in a situation that none of us has faced before proves how resilient we are as people. The youth at The Source are a prime example of community because even though they are all facing their own struggles, never have I seen people come together more to support one another than I do at The Source on a daily basis.”

Danny (Chase House): “I view community as a group of people working together to meet the community’s needs as well as the individual needs within that group. I think painting a pride wall is a great example. All our youth at the house came together for the shared goal of sending a message that we are a safe space. Additionally, we have had a few discharges as of late. For each one, our youth have come together, shared food, thoughts, and emotions as a way to find closure in this part of their relationship and to figure out ways in which they would like to continue their relationships with one another.”

Has there been a guiding principle that has helped you and the folks through these isolating times?

Beca (The Source): “Humor, and optimism. We use humor a lot. Not everyday needs to be about all the things happening in the world or the hardships these young people have faced in their life. We love to joke around, do goofy things, and let them enjoy themselves.”

Danny (Chase House): “We’re in this together. Staff hold the boundaries at TGTHR and sometimes it can be easy to associate us with these new guidelines that people are living by. Additionally, it can be easy for us as staff to get caught up in a moment of a youth “acting out” when that youth may be feeling boredom, fear, hopelessness, etc. like many of us are. All around we want to remind ourselves and each other that we are in this together and will get through it together.”

Lastly, what would you like people to know about Chase House that you feel gets overlooked or misunderstood?

Beca (The Source): “Not everyone’s experience of homelessness looks the same. We see people from all different walks of life but at the end of the day they are still young people who need positive adult relationships and the opportunity to make their own decisions.”

Danny (Chase House): “I think one thing is that the overlooked is the very real need for our programs. We have so many fantastic supporters who are aware of the work we are doing; there are also many people who are unaware of the challenges youth in our community are facing and that there are opportunities for them.”

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