Covenant House Missouri: Compassion for Kids

Photo by Sarah Conroy

An Article by Amanda Dahl, Ladue News

Runaways deserve more than judgments, according to Covenant House Missouri, an organization that seeks to protect and support the community’s youth. “We serve all of God’s children with unconditional love. We help kids ages 16 to 21 who are not in the foster care system and falling through the cracks in our society,” executive director Suzanne King says.

King delves deeper to discuss the root of this community crisis. “Typically, kids come to us because of family dysfunction,” she explains. “They might come for one night because they’re not ready for structure. If they come back, our crisis center is all about stabilization. We have two residential programs: One is short-term, a 45-day stay, and [the other is] a transitional living [arrangement] where they can stay up to two years.”

Some youth work with Covenant House to be reunited with their families. Others encounter issues which seem insurmountable. “There isn’t a family [with a] healthy enough [environment] for them to come back to, so they move into our transitional program,” King shares. “It is more about developing independent living skills, so when they leave our program, they can move into the community as a young adult.”

Those skills come in the form of financial literacy, job training and employment opportunities. Big Picture School, the organization’s small, independent high school, offers project-based learning. “We will never suspend any student,” King states. “A lot of these kids have too much pride to say they are struggling. Our therapeutic staff supports the teacher as needed with students.” The children also develop work skills through community internships and employment programs, developing soft skills before moving to in-house job training. Community partners include Panera Bread and HM Dunn Aerospace.

“These kids have endured multiple traumas throughout their lives. Our staff is trained to recognize how that drives [kids’] behavior, looking underneath and behind that behavior to address the trauma,” King says. “Without impactful and intentional intervention, kids will fall through the cracks of the community and become chronic homeless adults. We could lose them to the streets, or they could lose their lives. This is really a prevention program. We’re giving them a launching pad into adulthood they might not have without Covenant House Missouri.”

Covenant House Missouri, 2727 N. Kingshighway Blvd., St. Louis, 314-533-2241, covenanthousemo.org

WHAT/WHEN/WHERE

Ninth Annual Stan Musial Hall of Fame Gala, April 29 at 6 p.m., Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis

The evening includes silent and oral auctions, plus a dinner. “One of our graduates will be the keynote speaker,” executive director Suzanne King says. “People [can] hear their story, what they’ve accomplished and what they’re still working towards.” Call 314-450-7670 or visit covenanthousemo.org to learn more.

Read the Full Article

Largest-Ever Research Studies Finds Almost One-Fifth of Surveyed Homeless Youth in St. Louis Are Victims of Human Trafficking

LGBTQ Youth, Young Women Disproportionately Affected, According to New Studies

Researchers announced findings today from the largest-ever combined sample of homeless youth in the United States and Canada, revealing that nearly one-fifth are victims of human trafficking, including those trafficked for sex, labor, or both.  Homeless youth in St. Louis were among those surveyed for the study; locally it was found that 18% of the 33 local respondents had been trafficked for sex, labor, or both.

The dual studies by researchers at The Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice & Research at the University of Pennsylvania and Loyola University (New Orleans) Modern Slavery Research Project, drew on interviews with 911 homeless youth across 13 cities, including 12 cities where homeless young people accessed services through Covenant House, between February 2014 and March 2017. Covenant House operates the largest network of residences and community service centers for homeless youth across the Americas, reaching more than 46,000 youth every year in 30 cities across six countries.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) youth were disproportionately affected.  Though they accounted for just 30% of the respondents interviewed, LGBTQ youth accounted for 80% of the sex trafficking victims. Overall, 16% of the young women interviewed were trafficked for sex and 8% of the young men interviewed were trafficked for sex. Only one respondent was trafficked for labor.

Nationally, the researchers found that 19.4% of the interviewed youth were victims of human trafficking, with 15% having been trafficked for sex, 7.4% trafficked for labor, and 3% trafficked for both.  Sex trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age.  Labor trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purposes of subjection to involuntary servitude, debt bonding or slavery.

“Too many youth are desperate and alone on the streets.  Homelessness makes them vulnerable to traffickers,” said Covenant House President Kevin Ryan.  “We don’t have to live in a world where desperate kids are bought and sold.  If we want to reduce the number of youth who are trafficked, we have to end youth homelessness.  We can, we must, and we should.”

The 10-city studies encompassed interviews with young people aged 17 to 24.  Among the national reports’ key findings:

  • 15% of the total population of 911 young people had been trafficked for sex (21.4% of young women and 10% of young men).  An astounding 26.9% of LGBTQ youth reported experiences consistent with the U.S. federal definition of sex trafficking.
  • 32.1% of the youth interviewed had engaged in some way in the sex trade at some point: 40.5% of young females; 25.3% of young men. Fifty-six percent of the transgender youth reported being involved in the sex trade in some.

The Loyola research further found that:

  • 67.9% of the youth who had engaged in the commercial sex trade had done so while homeless.
  • While 21% of the youth interviewed had a history in the foster system, 29% of the youth who were trafficked and 27% of the youth who were engaged in the sex trade had been wards of the state or in the foster care system at some point in their lives.

“This critical study shows us that one in five homeless children is a victim of human trafficking,” said Anne Milgram, the former New Jersey Attorney General and now a Professor of Practice and Distinguished Scholar in Residence at New York University School of Law.  “It gives much needed insight into how we can better fight both homelessness and human trafficking, two terrible problems that are faced at the same time by many youth in America.  We need to act now to better fight these tragic events in the life of a child.”

Researchers interviewed homeless youth at Covenant House shelters in Anchorage, Atlanta, Detroit, Ft. Lauderdale, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Oakland, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Toronto, Vancouver, and Washington, D.C. Interviews were also conducted with young people at Tumbleweed, one•n•ten, and Native American Connections – all located in Phoenix.

For more information on these ground-breaking studies, go to CovenantHouseStudy.org

Founded in 1972, Covenant House is one of the largest privately funded agency in the Americas helping homeless youth, providing 24/7 crisis care and ongoing support to over 46,000 homeless youth each year in 30 cities across six countries. 

Covenant House Missouri Career Fairs

At Covenant House Missouri (CHMO), our employees are essential to our success. We value, respect, and embrace the many talents and gifts that a diverse team brings and understand diverse individuals can collectively work together to best assist our clients to reach their goals. As such, CHMO strives to be inclusive by seeing beyond visible differences and supporting each individual in the context of their reality, background, experience, skills, and perspectives that make one unique. This approach allows us to work with the youth we serve and the staff who support our mission in a respectful and meaningful way.

Please join us from 3pm – 7:30pm to learn more about Covenant House Missouri and our current openings.

When:

Tue, February 28, 2017
Thu, April 6, 2017
Wed, June 14, 2017
Tue, August 15, 2017

Where:

Covenant House Missouri
2727 N. Kingshighway Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63113

Parking and entrance through gated parking area to the left from Maffitt. Press the gate button to be let in.

What to Expect

  • Come interview ready with an up to date resume
  • Check in at the front desk when you arrive
  • Complete required paperwork: an application and on-line assessment
  • Meet current staff to find out about CHMO
  • Meet with interviewers

We strive to recruit, develop, and maintain an engaged workforce and encourage passionate, professional individuals to review our current openings listed on our website.

For More Information, Contact

Rebecca Guzman at 314.450.7674 or rguzman@covenanthousemo.org

CHMO Winter Newsletter 2016

What a year this has been for Covenant House Missouri and the youth we are so privileged to serve. In 2016, we implemented several big changes and initiated a culture shift across our agency. We moved from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. We created a new residential model based on trauma-informed care, knowing that so many of our residents’ lives have been altered by trauma. We opened a Big Picture Learning High School right here in our building, so that no young person must choose between working and receiving a high-school education. We added an evaluation component across the agency to enhance programs, staffing, and resource identification.

As we move forward into 2017, we will continue to provide holistic, individualized services – including mental health care, residential support, education, and community outreach – that will allow every young person to thrive and succeed. It is thanks to our volunteers, supporters, donors, and staff that we keep our doors open every day and never turn a struggling youth away, regardless of his or her life situation.

In this newsletter, we highlight some of the accomplishments of 2016. We visit the new Sanctuary Garden, a place of reflection and healing that was brought into existence by dedicated volunteers. We talk with Christy Horton, who is completing her practicum at Covenant House, and learn how important it is to strive for racial equity in everything that we do. We hear from Patience, a former Covenant House resident who recently received her GED, attained United States citizenship, and moved into her own apartment! Our blessings abound, and in so many ways.

Thank you for your continued dedication to Covenant House Missouri, and thank you for having a heart for our youth and our mission. Together with our Board of Directors, we are making a difference that changes lives.

 

Read more here: CHMO Winter Newsletter 2016

 

Respectfully,

Suzanne King
Executive Director

Take a Look at the Bigger Picture

This blog post was written by Matt Roberts, academic advisor for the Big Picture Learning High School at Covenant House Missouri. On August 22, the high school will officially open, and Matt will begin collaborating with a small group of youth to develop their individualized learning plans as part of the Big Picture model. To learn more about enrollment, contact Matt at 314.450.7685.

The United States takes pride in its foundation of freedom, individuality and revolutionary spirit and is constantly looking to learn from the past to improve the future. Yet when it comes to the educational system, there is a reliance on promoting compliance, conformity and standardization.

Here at Covenant House Missouri, we are starting a Big Picture School to better serve the community and our youth. Big Picture Learning was founded on the idea that education begins with a relationship and that the desire to learn is deeply, intrinsically human. It is the responsibility of schools to simply allow that desire to flourish with guidance and direction. Students of the Big Picture School learn on their own terms; utilizing internships, projects, exhibitions, and weekly advisories. Small classes allow our school to be agile and adapt to student needs while also giving us the ability to form strong, positive relationships with each student and their family.Supported by an internship coordinator, mentor, advisor, peers, and family, each student has a team of advocates ready and willing to assist in each student’s individual success.

We are excited and ready for the school year to begin. If you or someone you know would like to be a part of our new high school, then feel free to call, email, run, walk, dance, or fly out to Covenant House Missouri and take a look at the bigger picture!

 

The Evolution of Myles G.

This blog post was written by Eileen Ingrim, Employment Retention Specialist at CHMO. Eileen works with youth living at CHMO and in the community who participate in the Employment Skills program. Her deep love and compassion for all youth shines through as she shares Myles’ story.

Myles came to CHMO in 2011, initially to work on his GED.  He lived in the neighborhood near Covenant House and always wondered what we did here.  As he attended, he began to realize that CHMO does more than just one thing.

Myles began asking about our employment program, which led him to our job classes.  He excelled.  He was very engaged and interested in expanding his sphere of influence.  Myles graduated and was hired to be in our job training program, Garden Rangers.  He worked with us for the full 6 months.

During that time, AmeriCorps came to give a presentation to our youth about summer work. Myles was very interested, applied and was accepted to attend their Colorado site.  Myles had NEVER been out of St. Louis….but he was willing to go alone, and learn some new things. Myles learned that mountains are GIGANTIC! He learned that it is good to work with diverse groups. He experienced some rugged work: creating paths through mountains, fixing roads and working long days.  It was a fulfilling experience. Due to family situations, Myles returned before completing, but he definitely carries that experience with him.

Having Myles return to Covenant House to give back is a beautiful full circle.  Now that he is 26 years old, he definitely is in a different mindset. He is extremely humble, and while visiting, he was flooded with memories of what he was like as a youth and how he understands the street mindset. Myles eagerly met youth and commented on how his handshake has changed! Myles graduated from Eclipse Barber School is looking forward to returning to give haircuts and also share some motivation…some real talk.

Having Myles return and spend some time with me has been so rewarding. He reminded me of the value of what we do here at Covenant House and revived in me the classic truth that we really do plant seeds. DAILY.  Growth DOES happen. His interaction has rekindled my passion and my energy.  The main reason I am here is to impact this generation….and whether I see it or not, Myles inspired me to keep planting, keep loving and affirming, and to keep a joyful heart in the midst…because there is beauty right around the corner!

Open Intake Means Our Doors are Open to All Youth. Again. And Again. And Again.

Covenant House Missouri is an open intake agency, which means we accept all youth at whatever place they are in toward their journeys to independence. Our principles – immediacy, sanctuary, communicating values, structure and choice – are meant to guide youth through their personal traumas and toward becoming healthy, independent adults.

The path to independence is not without its bumps. We teach youth that they are the best experts of their own lives, and they must decide when they are ready to make positive changes. Sometimes this doesn’t happen upon the first stay. For some youth, leaving and returning to CHMO is a part of their growth. Covenant House becomes a safe and trusting place where they eventually feel empowered to stay.

In the post below, Troy Miles, a dedicated staff member who served youth for years as a case manager, explains what brings back youth to Covenant House Missouri.

Opportunities from the streets are offered daily for youth who are homeless.  Opportunities for employment, housing, education, among many others. The concern is that consistently these are inappropriate opportunities from those who traffic (sex and labor), those who charge a cost that is unthinkable (survival sex), and those who disguise manipulation as teaching to take away a youth’s willingness to trust.

When youth comes to Covenant House Missouri, they may have little to carry physically, but mentally and emotionally they are weighed down. Often times when they walk through our doors, it is hard to comprehend what a safe and caring opportunity looks like. So they leave and come back, and leave and come back, and leave and come back. They return because they start to understand that  that trust, respect and love don’t have to cost anything. The staff focus on their growth, not their mistakes. Youth return because in their own words “I figured out that this was the best place for me. It took me a while, but I get it now.”   This is what makes CHMO a place that makes youth who are homeless feel empowered to take steps toward independence.

Express Scripts Donates Toiletries to Youth on the Streets

Covenant House Missouri is grateful to the compassionate employees at Express Scripts for donating about five pounds of travel-sized toiletry items to our Outreach program. Employees were encouraged to donate their unused toiletries, or if they weren’t frequent travelers, to purchase travel-sized items and add them to the collection.

Items including shampoos, soaps, lotions, toothpastes and toothbrushes were generously shared, and on April 29, 2016, Covenant House Missouri staff were invited to Express Scripts corporate headquarters to receive the items. Outreach case managers Freida Morris and Megan Gray met with Tim Wentworth, Express Scripts President, and thanks the Express Script staff for their generosity.

The toiletries are being distributed as part of Covenant House Missouri’s street outreach program. Our Outreach case managers drive around St. Louis and distribute much-needed care items to young people living on the streets.

Covenant House Missouri first partnered with Express Scripts in 2015, when Tim Wentworth and his wife Robin co-chaired the 2015 Sleep Out: Executive Edition. The unique event encourages executives throughout St. Louis to join together with leaders across the United States to raise funds and awareness for youth who are homeless. Robin, Tim, and 20 other St. Louis leaders spent one night outside on the Covenant House Missouri parking lot to bring awareness to the nearly 3,000 youth in Missouri who sleep on the streets each night. Under the Wentworths’ selflessness and leadership, the participants raised nearly $283,000 to empower youth who are homeless or disconnected to design their own paths to independence.

Give STL Day is May 3rd!

Covenant House Missouri is once again participating in Give STL Day, an online day of giving sponsored by the St. Louis Community Foundation.

As a friend of Covenant House Missouri, we want your help in advocating for CHMO on this important day.

Helping CHMO is as easy as 1-2-3!

Step 1 – What is 1 fact or story that you love about CHMO? Share it on your social media sites for 1 week.

Step 2 – Choose 2 VIPs – friends, family, colleagues or professional connections – and make 2 requests: that they like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Step 3 – On May 3, make a gift to CHMO through Give STL Day! You can choose any amount – $33, $333, or even $333,333! Post on social media that you gave, and then challenge 3 friends to do the same! Tell them to challenge 3 of their friends!

Facts and Stories to Share for 1 Week

  • Covenant House Missouri utilizes holistic, individualized programs to empower youth who are homeless.
  • Covenant House Missouri is implementing a Trauma-Informed Care model.
  • 99 cents of every dollar donated goes to programming for youth who are homeless or disconnected.
  • In fiscal year 20
  • In fiscal year 2015, 86 percent of youth received life-changing therapeutic services.
  • In fiscal year 2015, 68 percent of youth who attended employment skills training obtained jobs.
  • In fiscal year 2015, 79 percent of youth in our crisis program were discharged to safe and stable housing.
  • In fiscal year 2015, CHMO outreach case managers drove 461 miles to support youth living in the metropolitan St. Louis region.