Covenant House is a privately funded organization whose mission is to provide food, shelter, clothing, and crisis services to runaway and homeless youth. From one facility in New York City in 1972, Covenant House has grown to a total of 14 cities in the United States, 2 cities in Canada, and facilities in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Mexico. The typical Covenant House facilities consist of a Crisis Center, which is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year; and a Community Service Center. Additionally, Covenant House staffs their Nineline (1-800-999-9999), which is a toll-free crisis line accessible 24 hours a day from anywhere in the United States.
The Covenant House Crisis Center is designed to be a safe place where kids can come to get their immediate physical needs met. A youth can come to the Crisis Center at any time and receive food, shelter, and clothing without question. In addition to providing the basic necessities of life, the Crisis Center provides services such as health care, counseling, and drug abuse treatment.
The Community Service Centers expand these offerings to include services such as vocational training, family counseling, transitional living programs, life skills training, GED and other educational courses, and legal services. All services are offered free of charge. The Community Service Centers are designed to keep at-risk kids off the street, and to get them back on their feet once they do end up there.
Increasingly, Covenant House has become involved in advocacy, in recognition of the fact that homeless youth are without a voice and without power of any kind. Their objective is to be the voice of these unrepresented youth who too often are invisible and terribly exploited.
Covenant House's branches in Latin America go by the name Casa Alianza. Casa Alianza began in Guatemala in 1981, expanded to Honduras and Mexico in 1986, and most recently established a facility in Nicaragua. The mission of Casa Alianza is identical to the mission of Covenant House in the United States and Canada: seek out homeless youth and, with unconditional love and respect, help them build good lives for themselves.
Covenant House receives the vast majority of its funding through donations, and is staffed by almost as many volunteers as paid employees. These individuals face more than the normal frustrations (and rewards) of a difficult job. Workers receive verbal and written threats from pimps, drug pushers, and other predators and are sometimes stalked or attacked.
In Latin America, some of the authorities (judges, policemen, and elected officials) are not just indifferent to the plight of street kids – they look upon them as vermin to be dealt with by extermination. Casa Alianza, as part of its advocacy program, has been prosecuting hundreds of cases of torture, rape, kidnapping, and murder, perpetrated by the very people who are supposed to be protecting these kids. This has resulted in worldwide awareness of the dreadful and unjust actions of some of these officials, but it has also resulted in attacks on staff members, drive-by shootings, and Casa Alianza buildings being sprayed with machine gun fire.
Covenant House provided services to over 50,000 kids last year, and another 16,000 were served at the Community Service Centers. Outreach programs contacted over 21,000 kids on the street, and the Nineline received some 84,000 calls. Their formal mission statement as quoted on their web site is:
We who recognize God's providence and fidelity to His people are
dedicated to living out His covenant among ourselves and those children
we serve, with absolute respect and unconditional love. That commitment
calls us to serve suffering children of the street, and to protect and
safeguard all children. Just as Christ in His humanity is the visible sign of
God's presence among His people, so our efforts together in the covenant
community are a visible sign that effects the presence of God, working
through the Holy Spirit among ourselves and our kids.
*You can find more information on Covenant House, Casa Alianza, and how you can help on the following Web sites: