By Louis March
In a ZOOM coference call yesterday with fellow members of the Zero Gun Violence Movement (ZGVM) core team, we were discussing the ” real impacts” of COVID-19 on vulnerable youth and families. What were the youth struggling with ? And what could ZGVM do to assist? It became clear very quickly that there were many questions with few concrete answers.
Problems facing the youth included increased alienation, lack of accessible supports, lack of mobility as they adhered to social distancing protocols, additional forms of surveillance, job loss and housing challenges along with meeting basic needs such as reliable food and shelter.
Most concerning was the fact that all levels of governments were announcing huge economic and social support programs in the billions of dollars which vulnerable youth could not access for various reasons. The Federal government is offering over $100 billion and the Province is offering over $30 billion – while their traditional supports and services were being shut down.
Yes, there is an understanding that there are daily updates which are supposed to better direct people and business on how best to access these well intentioned and needed supports. But the question must be asked: Will vulnerable youth have access?
Ask these young Black men for a bank account number or their residence address or when last they filed their income tax. Yes, these questions may certainly not be difficult for many who will be seeking to access the government supports and programs. But for vulnerable youth, these simple questions will be a challenge.
Let’s not delay. There is no pause button for vulnerable youth impacted by the COVID-19 virus crisis. So there is a definite need to provide spaces and opportunities for these young people to speak out about their daily challenges. And, of course, there is also a need to provide them with information on where they can access supports and services, using social media platforms and other forms of communication.
Thankfully, there were several community organizations that were identified during the conference call and many of them were already on the ground providing supports and services and, realizing the urgency of the moment, were not waiting for government supports to show up.
This is exactly what is needed now – the spirit of community responsibility in line with what many Black community activists would call a ” village response.”
This “village response” is needed to help organize and utilize all the resources and skills at our command to address the concerns and challenges being faced by the most vulnerable in our community.
Depending on government alone will not work for vulnerable youth in this crisis.
( Louis March is the founder of the Zero Gun Violence Movement)