Covenant House A Beacon of Light and A Place of Refuge for Homeless Youth of New Orleans
It is a place that is a beacon of light for many young people who feel they have nowhere to turn. Since 1987 Covenant House of New Orleans has helped transform and save the lives of countless numbers of young people by giving them the help, they need to live healthy productive lives.
The causes of Homelessness Among Youth in New Orleans
As is quite evident, when one looks under the overpasses of many parts of the City, New Orleans has a problem with adult homelessness. But many do not know that there is a growing problem with homelessness among youth.
Many are disconnected from their families for a variety of reasons including, abusive homes, victims of human trafficking, some who have aged out of the foster care or other traumatic experiences.
Brian Gorman, who is the Director of Administration, speaking about Covenant House and its mission says, “We serve youth ages 16 to 21. We provide them with the support they need that includes temporary shelter, counseling services and with our partners help them with a host of challenges they come to us with.”
Continuing he says, “Our doors are open 24 hours for those who are in need, we get kids from all walks of life and backgrounds who seek us out.”A Snapshot of the Youth Covenant House Serves The statistics provided by Covenant House provides a snapshot of who are the clients they service each year.
- 80% are survivors of physical abuse and/or sexual abuse, assault, or rape
- 30% aged out of foster care
- 15% ran away from home
- 70% were thrown out of homes that no longer wanted them
- 52% are young men, 46% are young women, and 2% are transgender
- 40% of our young men and 20% of our young women were recently released from jail or juvenile detention
- 33% of our young women are mothers
- 25% are victims of human trafficking and/or sexual labor
- 33% are LGBTQ
- 85% suffer from PTSD/poly-trauma – 35% receive medication
- 80% have used drugs – 40% have a serious addiction
Stories of Recovery and Hope
When we look at these startling numbers it pulls at the heart strings, but the young people who come are much more than statistics. They are resilient, brave and courageous. And with the help of Covenant House, they learn to cope with their difficulties and most of all with hope they often discover that there are brighter days ahead.
Gorman speaks of what their program entails, “We have an approach that is guided by five principles: immediacy, sanctuary, value communication, structure and choice. We have found this approach works in helping the youth that come through Covenant House.”
While Covenant House Provides a Valuable Service Solving the Problem of Youth Homelessness Will Require More Resources
Throughout the years many from the civic and business community have come out in support of Covenant House. One of them is former City Councilmember and WBOK Radio’s Oliver Thomas. He once worked at Covenant House as the Director of Advocacy. “The mission is a great one and I am proud to say that for a time I worked with them in helping guide and give some of our homeless youth the tools to succeed in life.”
Also speaking on the issue of homeless youth in New Orleans, he says, “The problem is much larger than people think. Especially since Hurricane Katrina, as you know that we have an adult homeless problem. But there are so many youths out here who do not have homes or are in circumstances where they feel they have nowhere to turn. It is great that Covenant House is providing these services, but much more is needed if we are to eliminate the problem of youth homelessness.”
Working Towards Solutions: Coming Together to Support Homeless Youth
Many people across the City come out to support Covenant House. One of their biggest fundraisers is their Annual Sleep Out. It is where citizens from across the City sleep outside for the night to bring voice to the issue of youth homelessness.
“This is a big event for us where people sleep outside in solidarity with our mission of helping the young people, we service here at Covenant House. It is incredible how many people come out to support the work we do, says Gorman.”
Speaking of other ways people can help he says, “There are always volunteer opportunities and we have community partners who help us as well. We realize that we cannot do this work alone of providing hope and opportunities for the homeless youth of New Orleans.”