Site Supervisor, Avenue 15
Melissa Morrison is an outstanding youth worker at Avenue 15 who truly went above and beyond during the Covid -19 pandemic. Melissa wears many hats at Trellis. She is currently the Site Supervisor at Avenue 15, (was previously the resident manager at Treehouse (an apartment building for youth and families transitioning out of homelessness) and most recently was a supportive roommate for a youth transitioning out of government care. While it was no surprise that Melissa continued her outstanding work in reconnecting youth and their families, housing vulnerable youth and supporting the staff team at Avenue 15, her efforts and focus on supporting some of our most vulnerable clients through a global pandemic were inspiring.
The beginning of the pandemic was a frightening and uncertain time for people working with vulnerable populations. Often the shelter is a busy place and the youth and families that we serve can be facing a host of barriers including poverty, addiction, trauma and mental health concerns. Melissa made it clear from the beginning that the pandemic would not stand in the way of our client centered approach. Youth still needed connection, relationships and nurturing and her creativity, perseverance and commitment to who we serve ensured they continued to have those needs met. Spending her days advocating and working to divert youth from shelters, Melissa also spends many late nights at the shelter making sure the youth felt cared for and important. During weeks of Covid isolation Melissa could be found sitting in the hall while youth were in their bedrooms, she would chat for hours with them, host hallway movie nights and made sure each shift had pre-made individual activities for staff to do with youth each night from crafts to games to food eating challenges, she made sure everyone was still building relationships even though the pandemic required us to do that safely from a distance.
When Melissa went home she was still working away to make sure her huge circle was safe. Her role at Treehouse was to ensure the youth and building were safe but again during the Pandemic she pushed her own limits and went far beyond. Going door to door, ensuring youth had food and had made a connection with someone that day Melissa was still checking on everyone. As the Pandemic advanced, our city saw many services needing to cease and Melissa tried to connect those who needed support with alternate options and when all else failed she quietly became the support those folks needed. When our city began to turn inwards even more and many homeless people became invisible and lost more access to the places they needed to meet basic needs – Melissa made sure our staff team had water and food ready to hand out to community members and took a detour on her way home to check on a large camp of homeless people who were nervous about accessing shelters during the pandemic.
After many years living at Tree house, Melissa moved out and opened her home to a youth in care who had minimal housing options due to his past choices and gang involvement. Not long after moving in, this youth contracted Covid-19 during Avenue 15’s first outbreak, along with a few other youth. When the Trellis leadership team considered an offsite isolation space, Melissa was everyone’s first thought. With no hesitation Melissa agreed to move in one day into a group Home with Covid positive youth. She eagerly moved her pets and her life into a home she had never seen before to care for youth who were sick with no help. Fondly referred to as “Camp Covid,” this space is more like a home than a program. With four Covid-19 positive youth with a myriad of barriers and needs living under the same roof and somehow getting along. They have family dinners and nights around the fire. What could have been the most traumatizing experience has been manageable and maybe even fun. Melissa spends every waking moment parenting, guiding and caring for these youth. She hosts Covid birthdays and referees wrestling matches and continues to advocate and keep the youth connected to the supports in their lives and often sends updates to the team. Melissa is a champion for youth and I believe that many of our most vulnerable youth would have been lost in this pandemic without her.