Covenant House Prepares for Tuesday Candlelight Vigil for Homeless Teens
International organization's president will attend
ANCHORAGE - Covenant House Alaska has long been a refuge for teens who have nowhere else to go, serving nearly 6,000 youths in a year, providing food and shelter and other services for homeless 13-to-20-year-olds.
Covenant House International President Kevin Ryan co-wrote “Almost Home” with former New York Times reporter Tina Kelley.
They had a book-signing at the Hotel Captain Cook, and will attend Tuesday night’s annual candlelight vigil for homeless youth.
The book documents six cases of homeless youths who went on to success, including a 13-year-old boy from Anchorage.
Covenant House Alaska provides food, shelter and other services for homeless youth. The organization has a presence in 30 cities and six countries, and its mission is the subject of “Almost Home.”
"It's an amazing thing to see over and over and over again, that the things we think matter most -- shelter, food, a good job -- they matter, but none of those mattered as much as having an adult love these kids and care for them," Ryan said.
The book includes the story of an Anchorage boy who became homeless when his mother left and his father became violent.
"And made it into Covenant House, not once, not twice, 11 times -- 11 different times over the course of his teen years, until finally he just decided to start listening to that voice, which he attributes to a woman named Mildred Mack, who worked at Covenant House at the time, and she said to him, 'you're better than this. You’ve got to make different decisions in your life.' And he did and eventually became quite the athlete, a kickboxing champion, and now a successful restaurateur."
Another person who has been helped by Covenant House is Jenifer LaChance, who became homeless at age 15.
Covenant House assisted her with basic needs but also with her education and job-training.
"But the biggest gift that Covenant House gave me, like, truly, honestly, the biggest gift that they ever gave me, is that they showed me what unconditional love was, because my parents didn't. They showed me that it was okay to mess up, that it wasn't like you were going to be cast aside as trash."
LaChance will be at the vigil Tuesday: One of many who believe it's better to light a candle than curse the darkness.
The candlelight vigil starts at 6 Tuesday night outside Covenant House at 609 F Street.
The organization expects to open a new emergency shelter next year in a building that will consolidate other services as well.