Children and teenagers don’t choose to be homeless. They take to the streets because adults have failed them or because circumstances beyond their control have left them no other choice.
In 2017, the number of homeless people in America increased for the first time in seven years,* and more than two million children in America will face a period of homelessness in their young lifetimes.**
Covenant House is using money raised through Red Nose Day to move young people from poverty and homelessness to a place of hope. While each young person served at Covenant House is unique, many of their stories are not unlike that of George.***
George was raised in the Bronx by his father and grandmother. He never knew his mother. His father was abusive, hitting him sometimes with his hands, sometimes with his belt. Unable to cope, George started acting out, getting in trouble, finally dropping out of school. When his grandmother died, George was kicked out of the house by his father.
He had no place to go, and no one to help him. While he did have a job, he did not have a place to live. He slept anywhere he could find: on the subway, in parks, and even on sidewalks. Because he had nowhere to shower, he used wipes to wash, so no one at work would notice the dirt. He did not want anyone to know that he was homeless. He felt very alone, and was distraught about where his life had led him.
After a month on the streets, a friend referred him to Covenant House. When he arrived, he was given food, clothing and safe shelter in a caring environment. He felt supported and secure. At Covenant House, George participated in the Job Readiness employment workshop, learning essential skills to find and retain employment. He landed a job while working on his high school equivalency diploma, and moved into Covenant House’s longer term transitional living program, Rights of Passage.
“I am so thankful to the staff at Covenant House,” says George, “because without their love and support, I don’t know where I would be right now. It’s been a really hard, long road, but I finally feel like I have a chance at being something great and accomplishing my dreams.”
George is on his way, hoping to attend college and become a firefighter.
* According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
** According to Covenant House
*** Name has been changed to protect privacy.