Week 17: The Covenant House NYC: Saving Homeless Young Adults
During my visit to Covenant House NYC I met and heard many heartbreaking stories of the young adults who had come to live there and saw first-hand the hope and courage these youth developed with the support of the organization. I heard stories of physical and sexual abuse, of drug addicted parents who passed off their children to strangers for care, of families who disowned teens who came out as LGBTQ. I listened to experiences of the violence of living on the streets in NYC – being ridiculed, kicked, spit upon, ignored. Of being hungry because there was no food for days. Of living in the same clothes for weeks and having access to a shower at a shelter once a month. These were stories of defeat and violence and depression. Of the turn towards drugs and alcohol just to numb the pain. Of lost IDs and the impossibility of forging a life.
What I also heard was the hope and resiliency and courage that slowly but surely developed because of the programs and interventions at the Covenant House. Of lives reborn and confidence restored. Of the ability to build life anew and become self-reliant and successful. Of hard work to attain GEDs and become drug-free. The power of the Covenant House to change lives!
In 2017 the University of Chicago released a report on youth homelessness in the United States. The study was conducted over the course of a full year and revealed that more than 3.5 million young adults ages 18 – 25 experience homeliness during the course of a year. That’s 1 in 10! These numbers are similar in both urban and rural settings.
LGBTQ youth are at more than DOUBLE the risk of homelessness and Indigenous Youth make up 31% of the young, homeless population.
Into this world comes the Covenant House. More than a shelter, Covenant House has helped transform and save the lives of over a million homeless, runaway and trafficked young adults. They offer housing and support services in 31 cities across 6 countries.
I was fortunate to have been able to take a tour and learn all about the programs at the NYC location
Young adults living on the streets are prone to violence, drug addiction, mental and physical health issues. Most have endured traumatic and adverse childhoods and abusive homes. Many have spent time in juvenile justice facilities and/or have aged out of foster care. An increasing number are victims of human trafficking. The Covenant House program works to engage youth on the streets and bring them into a life-changing program of short-term housing and longer-term transitional housing, connecting them with much needed services such as education, counseling, etc.
The goal is to provide a pathway of care and support to get these kids up and on their feet – to become self-sufficient and healthy permanently. This means addressing their housing, emotional, mental and physical needs – from crisis care to long-term support.
In addition, Covenant House works tirelessly as advocates for legislative changes and support at the local, state and Federal levels to fight trafficking for minors, to promote foster care reform, and to create and support employment and education programs as well as transitional housing programs.
The NYC Covenant house is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and is the largest provider serving homeless youth. They sheltered and assisted over 2,500 young people in 2017.
Over 250 young people worked to achieve their GED and over 150 were ready and placed in jobs through Covenant House programs. Thousands more received vital health and medical wellness care.
You have the power to help the Covenant House change lives! Contributions provide safe places to sleep, clean clothes, access to medical and wellness programs and education, food, and, ultimately, a place and a family of connections to call home!
Learn more about the Covenant House NYC and make a donation here: https://ny.covenanthouse.org/
Voices of Youth Count (University of Chicago). See full report here: https://voicesofyouthcount.org/brief/national-estimates-of-youth-homelessness/
Without a Home: The National Youth Homelessness Survey – the first pan-Canadian Study of young people experiencing homelessness. Published in 2016. Full report can be found here: https://www.homelesshub.ca/YouthWithoutHome
Photo of pregnant girl with sign from: https://nikkisimages.wordpress.com/2011/12/21/homeless-in-new-york-city/
Homeless youth statistics graphic came from: