The April Bulletin had a letter from Keiran Kevans, Coordinator at Glebe Youth Service (GYS), reaching out for community support to pivot their services for vulnerable people in the Glebe community during these pandemic times.

Judy Vergison provides an update on the achievements of GYS’s COVID-19 response as GYS adapted their service delivery model and partnering relationships with many local organisations over the past few weeks.

What is your highlight for the first quarter of 2020?

The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the agility of small community-based services like GYS. We have been able to use our connection to the community to quickly assess changing needs and respond accordingly.

In under a week we were able to redesign the structure of the program, moving from a centre-based operation where groups and individuals come to our centre, to an outreach and home delivery operation. We are delivering fresh fruit, vegetables and hot meals, offering phone support and working closely with other Glebe agencies. This has allowed us to meet basic needs and stay connected to our community, while still operating safely and in line with COVID-19 restrictions.

Safety has been front of mind at all times – our team members are very dedicated and have been extremely creative and resourceful in the way they have responded. We know from feedback that this is really valued by the community.

How has COVID-19 affected GYS services?

From an operational perspective COVID-19 has involved a major shift in our service model. One of the biggest challenges has been to find ways to balance safe practices against ensuring we provide continuity of service to the many vulnerable children and families our community.

We can be very proud of our frontline staff and they have risen to the challenge. They have implemented rapid and innovative changes to the way we do things, and this has enabled us to stay connected to our community and play a leadership role with other local service providers.

What changes have you made to your flagship programs?

Our Food Circle program has been expanded to include more families and more deliveries. We are also now working with a wider range of partners, including: Treehouse, Centipede, Have-a-Chat Café, Harris Farm, OzHarvest, Secondbite, St. Johns’ Glebe Assistance Partnership Program (GAPP), Mission Australia, Gift of Bread, Anglicare and Jamie Parker’s Office.

Our After Dark program would normally offer a safe place, healthy food, and structured learning activities for children, young people and families each Friday and Saturday night. It is now operating as a hot meal delivery and wellbeing check-in, to support local children, teens and families who are stuck at home. We have secured another partnership with Colombo Social and their ‘plate it forward’ initiative. They are providing pre-prepared meals that get delivered to GYS which we then distribute to the community.

Home visits are important in order to support some of our most vulnerable. These are mostly included as a part of food and meal deliveries. However, we are planning to start home visits during the day, especially with existing clients, but they will be undertaken from the street at a safe distance.

Information and education – we have been providing health and general COVID-19 information through our social media and hard copies distributed with meals and food boxes. We have partnered with the Glebe Connected network to design and print 2,500 postcards with helpful phone numbers, and one of these has been placed in every letterbox in the Glebe estate.

What are the key achievements of your COVID-19 program over the last 4 weeks?

GYS has become a hub for local food relief efforts – we’ve been receiving, sorting, packing and distributing food relief parcels several days a week.

Our recent service has included:

  • Delivering over 466 boxes of fruit, vegetables, staples and sanitary products to 95 households and families
  • Providing 362 meals to over 40 households over the past three weeks through our After dark program
  • Delivering around 1000 kg of fruit and vegetables per week and connecting to families where there are known vulnerabilities
  • Our food donors are supplying large volumes of food
  • Contacting and supporting community members by telephone (55 calls to 35 people)
  • Providing support via home visits (155 conversations with over 50 people)
  • Raising funds to support our COVID-19 program – over $3,000 has been raised to date but we are still looking to raise further funds to sustain the program.
GYS fruit and vegetable deliveries: an innovation enabling GYS to continue to support the local community (Photo: Michael Sales)
GYS fruit and vegetable deliveries: an innovation enabling GYS to continue to support the local community (Photo: Michael Sales)

What are other benefits from your COVID-19 resilience program?

It helps to ensure at-risk children, young people and the wider community remain connected to services and opportunities as we move through different phases of the pandemic.

We will continue to convene regular multiagency meetings to ensure collaborative efforts are coordinated and informed by the needs and experiences of those in the most need.

Who are your community partners?

We have established partnerships with a number of food suppliers including: OzHarvest; SecondBite; Harris Farm; Gift of Bread; Newington College and Colombo Social. At a local level, one of the wonderful things about Glebe is how well connected and supportive our community is – the COVID-19 crisis has seen organisations working more closely together than ever before.

What do you need extra funds for?

Funds are needed to resource our food distribution program – at a practical level we need to hire vehicles to deliver the food. The demand for support is rapidly growing and we are providing support to a much wider group than just local young people.

How can Glebe Society members support GYS COVID – 10 initiatives?

We are experiencing high demand for essential household items such as cleaning products, sanitary products and non-perishable food items.

Donations are still needed for computers, laptops and smartphones to distribute to school students who do not have a device to work on at home – new or used (in good condition).

If you are able to consider a donation, either of physical items or financially, this would be greatly appreciated.

Glebe Youth Service (photo: Phil Vergison)
Glebe Youth Service (photo: Phil Vergison)

How else do you plan to fund this change in GYS service offerings?

GYS is currently applying for a City of Sydney Council community service grant to extend their successful Glebe COVID-19 Community Resilience program to continue and upscale their food security work and to drive and coordinate local responses to the pandemic crisis.

Thank you so much for your ongoing support and please stay safe!

Keiran Kevans (Coordinator GYS) and Judy Vergison (Glebe Society & GYS Board member)