Fifty leaders from around the world who are on the front lines of homelessness gathered at Covenant House Alaska (CHA) for a three-day summit in March. Their agenda: to address issues revolving around homeless and at-risk youth, and the growing epidemic of sexually exploited and trafficked children.
They also took a closer look at the innovative solutions that CHA is using to tackle youth homelessness in Anchorage, and how CHA is bringing the Anchorage community into its mission. CHA currently partners with eight other organizations -- onsite -- at its newly designed building on A Street. That means more youth can get crucial services where they’re living, without having to go back out on the streets.
“We’ve brought several different organizations with different missions into our building to wrap services around our youth,” said Alison Kear, CHA’s executive director, of the two-year-old facility. “Before the new building, we couldn’t take kids with mental health issues. Now we can. The result is a tighter safety net, so fewer kids fall through the cracks.”
The leadership conference brought together all the 28 Covenant House executive directors, including from across the U.S., Canada and Latin America. Much of the summit examined the issue of trafficked children – nearly a quarter of youth at Covenant Houses across the nation are trafficked or sexually exploited. But the participants also took time off to enjoy Iditarod festivities and to tour the CHA building and learn how it was intentionally designed for the greatest positive impact on its young residents.
“It’s a phenomenal example of how partnering with others in a community gets results, especially when governments are contracting their services,” said Kevin Ryan, President and CEO of Covenant House International, which oversees all 28 Covenant Houses around the world, including Alaska.
"This is a place where community partners come in and provide dental care, and medical care and job training services, help kids do art therapy, help kids get and keep jobs,” Ryan added. “So what we really love about Covenant House Alaska is-- it's all about collective impact."