CHA Expands Its Transitional Living Program for Homeless Youth

The biggest population feeder into Covenant House Alaska is older kids that have been touched by the foster care system, those that have aged out of foster care by age 18.

These are the teenagers that cycle in and out of foster care, often “couch surfing” with acquaintances in between emergency foster placements, or finding themselves being trafficked in exchange for food and shelter.

“These kids have had such a history of multiple traumas,” said CHA Executive Director Alison Kear. “They are hurt and they’re vulnerable.”

Many of these older teenagers find themselves in a no-man’s land of homelessness – too young to feel safe at an adult homeless shelter, too alone and unqualified to be accepted into family shelters.

That is where Covenant House comes in.

To bridge this shift between childhood and adult life, Covenant House offers the Rights of Passage transitional living program for young people ages 18-21.

And thanks to a recent partnership between Covenant House Alaska and Cook Inlet Tribal Council (CITC), that program is being expanded – doubling the amount of housing for transitional age homeless youth to a full 30-bed capacity.

“It’s an example of how raising resources together can provide more needed services for the entire community,” added Gloria O’Neill, President and CEO of CITC.

The young residents will live and learn at the newly expanded and remodeled “Dena’ina House” on 5th Avenue downtown, which will open its doors to youth this fall.   The facility includes a classroom, job services, a teaching kitchen, a full laundromat and two floors of bedrooms.

“We’re here to end the impact, the effects of homelessness,” Kear said about the expanded Rights of Passage program.  “Our residents get jobs, they get diplomas, and that’s what gets them ultimately into permanent housing.”

At Rights of Passage, the average length of stay for a young person is eight months, with 90 percent of the graduates gaining full employment and into stable housing. Residents are required to hold down jobs, pay the rent, save money, balance a budget, even cook healthy meals – essentially, learn how to live successfully on their own.  Expectations are high. They must stick to a plan that includes work, school or an alternative day program.

Currently, the youth at Rights of Passage are in need of nice work clothes for job interviews and personal care products.  To donate or become a mentor at the Rights of Passage Program, please contact Heidi Carson, Program Coordinator, at 907-339-4420 or hcarson@covenanthouseak.org.