Holiday Spirit

Adrian Esqueda, the program coordinator at Daybreak, a youth housing program in San Mateo County, hands Michelle Mayes, the program manager at Daybreak, a mask on Nov. 17. Photo courtesy of Michael Maylan.

Posted December 3, 2020

StarVista adapts services during pandemic
Transitional housing nonprofit adds safety measures to its youth program

by Angela Swartz

Mornings at DayBreak, a transitional housing program in Redwood City, start with walking downstairs to say "good morning," a quick temperature check and cooking breakfast before logging onto an online class from the couch in the living room.

The 30-year-old program, run by San Carlos-based nonprofit StarVista , houses homeless 16- to 21-year-olds and is still offering its services despite the COVID-19 pandemic, albeit with some changes.

Health screenings are just one change, along with wearing masks, social distancing from others around the house and staying in at night. Therapy sessions have moved to Zoom. The precautions are especially necessary since COVID can often present without symptoms in this demographic, said Program Manager Michelle Mayes.

So far, no DayBreak residents have tested positive for the virus.

The program, which usually serves 10 young adults from San Mateo County, has capped housing at seven residents since April because of the pandemic. A staff of seven full-time employees run the operation, said Mayes. StarVista's services include counseling, skill development, and crisis prevention to children, youth, adults and families.

"We have a really brave team that are still willing to work during a pandemic," she said.

StarVista is one of the beneficiaries of The Almanac's Holiday Fund. Because The Almanac and its partner the Silicon Valley Community Foundation cover all the administrative costs, every dollar raised goes directly to this year's 10 nonprofit organizations. Donations to the Holiday Fund can be made here .

Some tensions over cleanliness and noise have arisen between residents who feel cooped up at home all the time, Mayes said. During the spring, it was also challenging for residents to land jobs, given the economical upheaval caused by the pandemic. Overall, residents are respecting safety guidelines, such as hand-washing, wearing a mask outside of their bedroom and bathroom, and using hand sanitizer, she said.

Clients stay in the house for about six months on average. Staff members provide them with training in finding and keeping a job; personal health and self-care; money management; meal planning and preparation; performing daily chores; locating and renting housing; and pursuing educational opportunities. Residents are required to attend school and work.

This year, of the residents who stayed for more than 30 days, 73% transitioned to a positive placement, 80% were either enrolled in school or had their GEDs, and 100% were referred to appropriate substance abuse treatment providers if needed, according to StarVista .

StarVista's services were first known in San Mateo County in 1966 under the name of "Peninsula Suicide Prevention, Inc." a small human services agency, according to StarVista's website. It grew into Youth and Family Enrichment Services and adopted the name "StarVista" in 2011. Its staff now includes 240 doctors, clinicians, social workers, and professionals and 45 clinical interns who work with 41,000 individuals and families annually.

Earlier this year, former Daybreak client Ozzy filmed a testimonial video explaining how StarVista helped him become more mature and responsible, and opened up doors to him. He now wants to become a counselor or a therapist.

"They've shown me I can count on someone and what a friend looks like," he said. "My life now is full of friends. I have my own place. I bought a new car, I have a steady job."

When someone is homeless, sometimes their grades fall and they lose their jobs, Mayes said. It's great to see them transform their education and career, she said. Mayes said one resident saved $10,000 while part of DayBreak.

"It's great to see them (DayBreak residents) blossom into themselves," she said. "And see them feel as if they can achieve their goals."

The pandemic has given staff an even greater sense of purpose, said StarVista CEO Sara Mitchell during a recent discussion the nonprofit hosted over Zoom.

"I think they've always been very passionate about the work that they do, but they see the ways that they are positively making changes in the community despite all of the challenges," Mitchell said. "On the flip side, for our clients, in the midst of so much uncertainty, there's a sense of 'when will this end.' For the individuals we serve, they feel a sense of reassurance knowing that there's this organization of people who care about them and are invested in their communities.".

For more on StarVista and DayBreak, go here.

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2021 Recipient Agency

Boys & Girls Club of the Peninsula
Provides after-school academic support, enrichment, and mentoring for 1,800 low-income K-12 youth at nine locations across Menlo Park, East Palo Alto, and the North Fair Oaks neighborhood of Redwood City.

Ecumenical Hunger Program
Provides emergency food, clothing, household essentials, and sometimes financial assistance to families in need, regardless of religious preference, including Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets for more than 2,000 households.

Health Connected
Serves over 5,000 students and their families each year through comprehensive sexual health education programs. Students learn to have ongoing communication with parents and to make informed decisions that will apply to their lives, now and in the future.

Provides shelter/housing and supportive services across 18 sites in Silicon Valley and the Peninsula. Serves thousands of homeless families and individuals annually on their path back to permanent housing and self-sufficiency.

Literacy Partners
Supports literacy programs and projects through fundraising and community awareness. Helps community members enhance their reading, writing and related skills and education to improve their economic, professional and personal wellbeing.

Ravenswood Family Health Center
Provides primary medical and preventive health care for all ages at its clinic in East Palo Alto. Of the more than 17,000 registered patients, most are low-income and uninsured and live in the ethnically diverse East Palo Alto, Belle Haven, and North Fair Oaks areas.

St. Anthony's Padua Dining Room
Serves hundreds of hot meals six days a week to people in need who walk through the doors. Funded by voluntary contributions and community grants, St. Anthony's is the largest dining room for the needy between San Francisco and San Jose. It also offers take-home bags of food, as well as emergency food and clothing assistance.

St. Francis Center
Helps low-income, working families become self-supporting members of the community by providing long-term solutions through educational programs for children and parents, as well as after-school programing at Siena Youth Centers. St. Francis Center also provides housing, food and clothing services to address short-term needs.

Serves more than 32,000 people throughout San Mateo County, including children, young people and families, with counseling, prevention, early intervention, education, and residential programs. StarVista also provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services including a 24-hour suicide crisis hotline, an alcohol and drug helpline, and a parent support hotline.

Upward Scholars
Upward Scholars empowers low-income adults by providing them with financial support, tutoring, and other assistance so they can continue their education, get higher-paying jobs, and serve as role models and advocates for their children.

As of March 26th, 184 donors have contributed $305,280 to the Holiday Fund.
* indicates amount withheld at donor's request

40 Anonymous28,370
Lorraine Macchello100
Kathy & Bob Feldman500
Alice F. Schenk & John L. Richardson200
Jan Jedkins400
John & Cooky Galen 50
Michael & Lenore Roberts200
Gail & Susan Prickett1,000
Lucy Reid-Krensky100
Mark & Karen Weitzel*
The Mendelsohn Family2,500
Joel Jakubson & Krishna Mitra250
Betty Meissner100
Barbara and Bill Binder *
Sidney Chen & Sandra Lee Chen*
Ken Turkowski100
LindaKeegan 1,000
Linda keehan1,000
The Wang Family300
Carol Kemper200
Charles Bacon and Cynthia Dusel-Bacon250
Mary and Bob Dodge300
Derek and Susan Hine*
Joe and Julie Zier*
Gisela Brugger1,000
Karen Fleck & Ian McDowall*
Judy & Jim Lipman50
J. Wong*
Martha Cohn100
Kayleen Miller100
Barbara Kent150
Walter Robinson250
Nita & Clay Judd*
Robert & Connie Loarie*
Bill Wohler440
Sandy Cold500
Terri D. Bullock Family Foundation5,000
Richard & Jean Duda120
Tim & Mia Clark500
John & Lisa Whelan100
Barbara Oliver200
Elizabeth Tromovitch75
Connie & Bob Lurie30,000
Arnie and Judie Cornez*
Leonard Shar750
Dorothy Saxe*
Gallo Family Fund500
Barry L. Goldblatt150
Susan carey1,500
Kerry & Rick DeBenedetti*
Dennis Monohan100
Ann C. Treadwell*
Colflesh Charitable Fund50
Bruce & Ann Willard1,000
Andrea G. Julian1,000
Lynne S. Fovinci75
Roger & Pat Witte200
Nancy & Bill Ellsworth*
Novitsky Family100
Kathy & Bob Mueller100
The UMOC Charitable Fund100,000
Pegasus Family Foundation1,000
Susan Kritzik and Bruce McAuley*
Kevin Novak & Hannah Gilula500
Judy and Doug Adams*
Roger and Wendy von Oech1,000
Anne Davison100
Leigh Flesher and Mark Bailey*
Margaret Melaney2,000
Mitzi Moynihan*
Mitzi Moynihan*
John Donald and Elaine Hammond100
Marc & Mary Ann Saunders*
Owen & Hannah Sowerwine100
Robert Mullen 250
Juli and John Parker250
Robert & Barbara Simpson*
Donald & Judith Mac Millan500
Margo Sensenbrenner*
Barbara Jacobson200
Melanie Austin500
Mary Ann Hurlimann500
Susan Higley Russell100
Nancy & Dan Witeck200
Betsy Stockdale*
Bill & Melba Rogoway*
Leslie & Michael Crisp*
Bryan & Susan Lovegren50
Sue Bartalo and Dave Fischer250
Kajsa Tabor*
Mayling Dixon*
Dave & Diane Toole100
Jim Lewis*
Maggie Markdasilva1,000
Ross & Liz McDougall*
Barbara Bessey*
Douglas Keare Jr & Jill Morgan2,000
Carrie German*
Margaret & Jamis MacNiven100
Jerry & Shirley Carlson250
Austin Grose250
Sue Bishop & Viole McMahon100
Vicky Rundorff*
Mr. & Mrs. Kurt Jaggers15,000
James E. Esposto*
Janet Buce Cook500
Gordon Russell & Batina McAdoo1,000
Volckmann Family Foundation3,000
Leslie Airola500
Geoff & Colleen Tate*
Tom & Ann Livermore1,000
Kathryn Stivers Charitable Fund500
Joyce castellino 200
Bob and Marna Page*
Erika Crowley*
Donna Mackowski200
Paul Perret1,000
Bob & Barbara Ells500
Kathleen Elkins*
Don & Catherine Coluzzi*
In Memory Of

Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard1,000
Dr. Fereidoon Kaboli*
Ruth & Chet Johnson*
Doug Hutton200
Paul & Ingeborg Katz*
Vicki Jones & Dee & Jerry Carlson125
Nancy Sallaberry500
Wiley Birkhofer2,500
Stephen F. Martin5,000
Hugh D. Kennedy*
Ted Heidinger500
Jean Zonner1,000
In Honor Of

Nella and Bill Berry1,000
Marer Family200
Nancy Stevens*
The Liggett Family*
Dennis McBride500
As a Gift for

Mira Lajoie100
Businesses & Organizations

Rotary Club of Menlo Park Foundation10,000
Griffin & Sons Construction, Inc*
Hewlett Foundation8,750
Packard Foundation15,000
Menlo Park Firefighters' Association500
Lyn At Your Service*