Covenant House in Anaheim Fills Niche for Homeless Young Adults – Orange County Register

When Covenant House, a nonprofit organization that provides shelters and resources to homeless young adults, opened the doors of its Anaheim location earlier this year, there were 30 names on the waiting list.

Since opening in February, the waiting list has at times increased to 65 names, said Ami Rowland, chief program officer for Covenant House’s California locations.

The number is significant.

“It just goes to show that there isn’t enough in Orange County for young people to want to get off the streets immediately, and I think that’s a problem,” said Rowald, who has over 25 years of experience working with children and young people adult features crisis.

Covenant House California provides adults ages 18-24 with a safe haven and a range of services including food, clothing, medical assistance and mental health services.

The Anaheim location, which can accommodate 25 people, is the first nonprofit in Orange County and the only facility in the county that exclusively serves the 18- to 24-year-old age group, Rowland said.

Covenant House also has facilities in Los Angeles, Hollywood, Oakland and Santa Clara.

By the time they make their way to Covenant House, the young adults are often victims of human trafficking, Rowland said.

“We know that when young people are homeless on the streets for a night or two, they are approached by exploiters or traffickers,” she said. “You are vulnerable. You are an easy target on the road.”

Young adults who need shelter are often overlooked by society, Rowland said.

“Young people affected by homelessness are often referred to as the invisible homeless because you don’t see them,” she said. “They’re in coaches, they’re in cars, they’re residences where they’re not supposed to be.

“They’re not necessarily on the street or in a camp,” she added. “Sometimes people think there’s no problem in Orange County, and we’ve always known there was.”

Younger people seeking help are often referred to Covenant House by other charitable organizations such as the Salvation Army.

Some find out about Covenant House from their friends, who were also going through a crisis, Rowland said. Others do their own research on the nonprofit organization.

An average stay is three to four months, Rowland said, but there are no rules governing how long residents stay.

“No matter how long it takes for them,” she said. “We don’t have a schedule.”

A team that includes youth engagement counselors, case managers, and a community engagement coordinator helps residents identify their goals and then provides them with resources to help them achieve those goals.

“We’re focusing on more age-appropriate goals and outcomes for them than what the world or government says they should do,” Rowland said.

Peer-to-peer support is also a key component in healing residents, said program director Polly Williams.

“The youth help each other and also regulate each other,” said Williams, who has worked with youth in Australia and Fiji. “And they motivate each other. If there’s a problem between residents, they sort of solve it themselves, which is really different from larger accommodations.”

More than 65% of Covenant House’s budget comes from donations. The nonprofit also receives money from local government sources, including the city and the OC Health Care Agency.

Chris Ninõ, who lives at the Anaheim facility, said he survived on and off the streets of Santa Ana for years before he found out about Covenant House’s services.

After spending some time there, Ninõ said he wanted to help others who were going through similar difficulties.

“I want to help someone,” he said. “I want to bring love. I want to change lives.” Covenant House in Anaheim Fills Niche for Homeless Young Adults – Orange County Register

Dais Johnston

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