In this economy, it’s not all that uncommon to lose a home. And while many have somewhere to go in that situation, there are just as many who end up living on the streets, especially in Detroit.
Covenant House of Michigan, one of several organizations with the same name around the country, last year helped more than 8,900 underprivileged young people who were homeless or on their way to being homeless. The organization’s mission is to provide shelter, education, vocational programs and other support to youth ages 13 to 22, helping them overcome homelessness, unemployment and related challenges.
It’s not just the 5.2-acre campus, with crisis shelter beds, a transitional living area, cafeteria and other shelter programs that make Covenant’s House so special. It’s the care the organization takes with every person it serves, whether through its outreach program on the streets, through its shelter programs or through educational and other supplemental programs.
“They have this opportunity to learn all these lessons and ensure that they’re not back on the street,” said Melissa Golpe, Covenant House of Michigan’s marketing director. “The idea is to get them out of homelessness so they never have to be in that situation again.”
The shelter, which serves some 400 youth ages 18 to 22 annually, has room to house and feed 45 people at a time for up to 90 days, and there’s also a transitional living center with 30 beds for those who need long-term assistance. Most people in those shelters are from the Metro Detroit area, but Covenant House works with other local shelters, too, and has housed youth from other areas of Michigan and neighboring states when the situation warrants it.
The shelter is free of charge, but certainly not free of rules. Each person who stays there has a case plan that includes education and other steps toward breaking the homelessness cycle. They’re also expected to help with chores and follow the rules.
“Even though they’re adults, they’re still at an age where they have a lot to learn,” said Golpe. Their education, provided on the campus inDetroit, could include anything from personal hygiene and money management to relationship building and courses toward high school graduation.
The rules can turn some people away, and they’re free to go, explained Golpe, but sometimes it just takes some time for them to come back to the program.
Covenant House’s outreach program, which serves about 500 youth each month, provides clothing, toiletries and educational assistance to youth on the streets. A van patrols Metro Detroit’s streets five days a week and offers this assistance. Some of the kids are ready to come to the shelter. Others may be resistant, but at least they can get some temporary relief and information about the program should they decide to commit to it.
In addition to the educational programs offered at the Covenant House campus, the organization partners with Detroit Public Schools to offer high school education. Covenant House Academies, three charter schools located in Detroit, had 581 graduates last year. The tuition-free programs enable students to learn at their own pace, and to take courses for just a couple hours a day so they can hold jobs or do other work toward breaking the homelessness cycle.
Vocational programs are another big part of Covenant House’s work. The Covenant House campus, located at Interstate 96 and Martin Luther King Boulevard, has a career advancement program that provides assistance with resume writing, interviewing and other job placement skills. The program also includes internships, many of which are within the Covenant House organization.
While Covenant House is not affiliated with any particular religion and doesn’t turn anyone away for religious reasons, it is a Christian organization dedicated to serving God’s children. “It’s just the idea that our mission is to help God’s children,” Golpe said. “It’s just showing our unconditional love for them.”
Golpe said Covenant House is making headway with Metro Detroit youth. “We’re doing great work in the community and we’re seeing results. It’s changing lives.
“These kids come back and they say, ‘I don’t know if I would be alive if it weren’t for Covenant House.'”
Covenant House is privately funded and always looking for monetary and in-kind donations, as well as volunteer help. For more information, visit www.covenanthousemi.org.
If you or someone you know needs shelter, call the organization’s crisis hotline at (800) 999-9999.