Compass: Covenant House restarts young lives

Several years ago, homeless kids were flooding through the doors of Covenant House and with our limited space and beds, we offered them mats on the floor. It was not sustainable. Youths who fled to the snowy streets of Anchorage to escape abuse and neglect at home found little space or sanctuary on our floors. Covenant House, backed by our community, decided to provide more.

We had key conversations -- with kids, with policy makers, with our funders. We asked "What if ..." a lot.

"What if we offer homeless teens what parents strive to offer their own kids?"

"What if we create a space where education opportunities are dynamic and fluid?"

"What if our kids engage in art and music alongside Alaska's best artists and have a safe place to go when nightmares haunt them?"

"What if we proceed with the notion that individuals, particularly young ones, even after enduring abuse and neglect, are capable of greatness?"

"What if we decide that cycles of despair are penetrable? And that kids suffering today are not a foregone conclusion for tomorrow?"

"What if we treat the "least of these" like they deserve to be treated with love, compassion and encouragement?"

The "what if" questions created their own answers and Covenant House, backed by faithful donors and supporters, built a new home that has provided both comfort and opportunities for radical growth since August 2013.

Ready to get your GED? Let's get on the computer and enroll right now.

Ever exercise? For fun? We have a basketball game starting in 10 minutes -- and we have some shoes you can use.

You seem as though you've been sick for weeks: we can offer you medical care today.

It's bold. Offering young people who were born into abuse, shuttled into foster care and left on the streets a beautiful space built for creative, intellectual and emotional growth is somewhat unprecedented. It is often safer to go bare bones, to provide the basics -- bread and a bed. But our "what if" questions were prompted in part because the issue of homelessness in Anchorage was not resolving itself. The violence, panhandling and pain seemed more pronounced.

By all measures, the space built as a result of all those conversations is working. Youths come in and remain engaged. "Street families" and human traffickers lose their grip on kids desperate for love as they discover their intrinsic value and capability in a safe place. GEDs are obtained, jobs landed, medical care delivered, exercise goals met, birthdays celebrated, love given. Volunteers staff our art, educational and fitness rooms, allowing the lessons delivered to be richer. In short, the kids at Covenant House are flourishing in ways we've never seen before.

It's not free. We've brought in members of the community and new funding sources, but others have been lost. This year, CHA did not receive a critical source of municipal funding, a $250,000 operating grant. The money paid for ongoing costs of caring and sheltering 60 kids a night.

We write to share good news -- an effort to provide for abused kids, an effort to bring love and safety to the youth of our streets, an effort to curtail and reduce chronic homelessness is working. And we also write to ask you to join us.

All great works require the care of many hands. Backed by Alaskans, we built a home for kids, they've come and we want to continue. Please consider volunteering or donating to the youth of Covenant House today and please consider any gift you give an investment in kids who are thriving.

If every individual who reads gives what they can, we will make up our $250,000 shortfall. After all, betting on the potential, generosity and strength of people has gotten us this far. We intend to keep believing.

Alison Kear is executive director of Covenant House Alaska. More information and ways to donate are available at www.covenanthouseak.org.



By ALISON KEAR