Armed with a sleeping bag and a piece of cardboard; a lot more than I had when I was homeless and living on the streets, I will sleep outside so that the youth at Covenant House Toronto can ignite their potential and reclaim their lives.
It’s always a very difficult night for me. Sleeping on the streets transports me back to when I lived on park benches and in abandoned buildings. It brings me back to days where I had no human contact, no conversations, no eye contact, no warmth, no food … nothingness. Unless you call fear something.
This will mark my fourth year returning to the streets for the night. My memories will not be softened by the knowledge that in the morning I have a home to go back to, or by the fact that I am sheltered by a tent with full security. The memories and feelings about the life I lived as a kid on the streets will not (unfortunately) be eased by the company of the over 80 fabulous women sleeping beside me. Over 40 years later I have found a way to make sense of my loss and experiences … to give it a purpose rather than carrying it as a burden. Sleeping out and raising much needed money for Covenant House means that I (WE) are helping to provide a safe haven for kids who are out there now and for the current residents of Covenant House or Covey as the kids affectionally call it.
The #UnconditionalLove they are given by the staff (family) at Covenant House is what every person deserves, every child deserves. It is ultimately what heals these kids - many of whom have only associated love with pain prior to finding Covey.
On any given night in Canada, there may be at least 6000 homeless youth on the street. Covenant House helps youth ignite their potential and reclaim their lives. As Canada’s largest agency serving youth who are homeless, trafficked or at risk, they offer the widest range of 24-7 services to about 350 young people each day.
As a national leader, Covenant House educates and advocates for long-term change to improve the lives of vulnerable youth. This includes influencing public policy, leading awareness and prevention programs and continually building and sharing their knowledge. As a learning organization, they strive for excellence and programs with impact.
More than a place to stay, Covenant House provides life-changing care with unconditional love and respect. They meet the youth’s immediate needs and then work together with the youth to achieve their future goals. Covenant House offers housing options, health and well-being support, training and skill development, and ongoing care once youth move into the community.
Thanks to their donors, who contribute almost 80 percent of their $33 million annual operating budget, Covenant House is able to deliver these comprehensive programs and services.
"How are youth facing homelessness affected by COVID-19?
People facing homelessness are more susceptible to the coronavirus, and they are also likely to get much sicker or die than people who are stably housed. One doctor said the coronavirus has a transmission rate above 80% in households, adding that homeless shelters are like “giant households,” which means that if a resident is infected, the virus is likely to spread quickly to others.
Youth facing homelessness face many of the same adversities as adults, but they are still developing physically, cognitively, psychologically, and emotionally, and the risks and trauma they experience at this time can have long-lasting effects. Lack of health insurance, nutrious food, and a vulnerability to other types of infection compound the threat.
How has Covenant House responded?
Our doors remain open. Last night, over 2,100 young people found safety under a Covenant House roof.
We are focused on ensuring that the youth in our care are safe and secure, and have implemented protocols to care for youth experiencing symptoms. These include establishing quarantine spaces, revising our intake process with guidance from the CDC, ensuring a safe distance between beds, more regularly disinfecting common areas, and distributing cleaning and hygiene materials to youth and staff.
We have suspended all visitors and non-essential staff from the site, and an emergency staffing protocol is in place to ensure coverage while keeping our team safe.
We are providing as much on-site youth programming as possible, including additional mental health programming for youth experiencing anxiety as a consequence of the outbreak.
With youth sheltering place, we are seeing increased costs in food and staffing since all youth are in our building 24/7/365." (CR: Covenant House)
Covenant House Locations and Services Help Thousands of Homeless Kids
Covenant House has shelter facilities are in Anchorage, Atlanta, Atlantic City, Chicago, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Los Angeles, Managua, Mexico City, Milpas Altas, Newark, New Orleans, New York, Oakland, Orlando, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Tegucigalpa, Toronto, Vancouver and Washington, D.C.
For homeless youth all across the U.S., Canada and Mexico – who aren't near one of our sites and need immediate help – Covenant House also operates two toll-free crisis hotlines.
Help is just a phone call away
Covenant House works in collaboration with the National Runaway Safeline (NRS) – a crisis care hotline that can provide you with assistance 24-hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. 1-800-RUNAWAY or visit www.1800RUNAWAY.org