Nonprofit works with ASD to provide support and keep kids in school
ANCHORAGE – There are many problems facing homeless teens in Alaska, and sometimes all they need is just someone to talk to.
Covenant House provides caseworkers who are there to listen.
“There are some days you just have too much on your mind and there are certain staff in here I can just sit down and vent, cry, go on for hours,” explained 19-year-old Amanda, who declined to give her last name.
She’s been homeless for the past year and is currently living at Covenant House.
Amanda says it’s caseworkers like Jeni LaChance who have helped her get through the bad times.
“The day I was to the point where I didn’t want to do it anymore; you just get tired. She was like, ‘I don’t care what it is; I will not let you give up. Even if I have to push for you for a little bit,’ she would do that. Those words, that’s what’s been keeping me going lately,” Amanda said.
LaChance knows how important it is for teens like Amanda to have support: she was homeless when she was 15.
“I didn’t feel like I had anyone there to support me, and when I realized staff at Covenant House was willing to step in and be that rock I so desperately needed in my life, it became my goal to give that back to our youth,” LaChance said.
Covenant House works closely with the Anchorage School District to make sure education continues to be a priority.
Each year ASD has about 2,000 kids who are homeless at one point.
One program helps students by keeping them in the same school for the entire year and provides transportation if they move somewhere else in town.
“We have kids that are moving all around the city and they’re not sure where they’re going to sleep at night or where their friends are going to be, but they know because of our program when they go to school they’re going to see that same teacher and classmates,” explained Dave Mayo-Kiely, the Coordinator for ASD’s Child in Transition Program. “School becomes the stabilizing factor in their lives. They might not know where they’re sleeping tonight, but they know they’re going to go back to that same school.”
Amanda knows the importance of education as well and is working toward an associate degree in health care management.
She said there’s often a stigma around homeless teens and encourages people to keep an open mind.
“You look at me you wouldn’t think I stay at Covenant House, but I do. I don’t care though,” she said. “I’m laying my head down somewhere warm and safe. I have a job, I go to school. Don’t judge me because of where I stay. Judge me by what I do.”
With Covenant House’s help, she’s doing her best to get back on her feet.