LISA, Inc. trying to create sense of normalcy for youth during coronavirus pandemic

Published on Thursday, 26 March 2020 13:21
Written by BRIAN M. JOHNSON

@brianjohnsonBP

SOUTHINGTON – From executive leadership down to program leaders, LISA, Inc. is working on behalf of the youth in its programs to make life easier despite the social isolation imposed during the coronavirus outbreak.

LISA, Inc., which stands for Living In Safe Alternatives, is a nonprofit organization that provides programs to help teen and young adult girls in the care of the Department of Children and Families. Its programs give them life skills and helping them transition into independent living.

Fernando Muniz, CEO of Community Solutions, Inc. which LISA, Inc. became a division of during a merger in January, said the coronavirus has had a number of “ripple effects” that affected all nonprofit organizations.

“It has increased the costs of operations,” he said. “They have had to get protective equipment for staff as well as pay for food costs and overtime for staff, many of whom are volunteering to work extra hours. Some are working two to three days in a row around the clock to minimize the number of people going in and out of the building.”

Thus, Community Solutions Inc. is joining with other nonprofit organizations and asking for increased funding from the state as well as the loosening of regulations for things such as paid time off.

“We are pushing for the state to be more flexible at this time,” he said. “The services we provide, both in terms with what LISA, Inc. does for youths in the care of the Department of Children and Families, and for those transitioning from prison back to society though halfway houses with some of our other programs, are essential services to the state.”

Liz Hyatt, associate director of development, said staff at LISA, Inc.’s Southington office headquarters recognize how those who work directly with the youths housed in their programs are going “above and beyond” during this difficult time, referring to them as “unsung heroes.”

“We are doing a lot of little things behind the scenes for our staff, like making them lunches and dinner, to show them how much we appreciate them,” Hyatt said.

Christina Cicero is a program director with LISA, Inc. who works directly with girls who live in housing provided by the program. She said the efforts both on behalf of the local office and the executive leadership are appreciated by both the girls they work with and her fellow staff. The meals, she said, have helped to keep morale high.

“We are so appreciative that they are not only willing to listen but willing to act,” she said. “It’s one of the greatest things about working for this agency.”

Muniz said the youths they work with are dealing with social distancing restrictions. They are being limited on having friends over, leaving their housing facilities or going out and working in the community. Food is being ordered online through Peapod.

“It has disrupted their routine and creates anxiety,” he said.

Because of this, Cicero said staff has been trying to remain positive with the hope their positivity will trickle down to those they are working with.

“COVID-19 is in your face everywhere you turn, on social media and on TV,” she said. “We are telling the youths in our programs that things will be OK as long as we take precautions. And that we can still laugh and have fun. We try to lighten the mood by watching funny movies and walking outside on the property. Some of the girls have even put on their own ‘cooking shows.’”

Cicero said the youths in the program have developed a strong sense of sisterhood and camaraderie.

For more information on LISA, Inc. and how to support their programs, visit lisainc.org or call 860-426-0946.

Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or bjohnson@bristolpress.com.



Posted in New Britain Herald, Southington Herald on Thursday, 26 March 2020 13:21. Updated: Thursday, 26 March 2020 13:24.