Emelina Haring-Furment was only 16-years-old when she arrived at Covenant House Alaska two years ago on a cold autumn day. She was alone, scared – and had just given birth to a baby girl.
“I had very little support or even anyone I could trust to guide me in the right direction,” said Haring-Furment, now 18. “I had not completed my education, I did not have a job, and I lacked the confidence needed to even apply.”
“I was supposed to be going to school everyday and being a normal teenager,” the young mother added. “But instead of being a normal teenager, I had a newborn baby.”
After spending nearly 18 months couch-surfing between six different homes, never receiving the support and guidance that she so desperately needed for herself and her baby, Haring-Furment heard about Covenant House Alaska’s program for homeless pregnant teens and young mothers. It is called Passage House, and it’s a home where pregnant and young mothers receive safe shelter while working to obtain an education, as well as positive parenting and job skills.
Since the program opened in 1993, over 220 young mothers have gone through Passage House, receiving the mentoring, life skills and unconditional love that ultimately enable them to achieve independence.
Seventy-five percent of the girls who have graduated from Passage House gain financial stability and are off all forms of public assistance within two years of leaving the program, said Gena Graves, who has served as Passage House Coordinator for 23 years.
“Believing in these young ladies is the easy part,” Graves said. “I know that they are beautiful, smart, competent young women with many gifts and endless potential. The tough part is getting them to see that and know it.”
Today, Haring-Furment is fully employed, has found a wonderful daycare for her beautiful little girl, has earned her driver’s license and is working to complete her GED, and lives in and pays the rent for her own apartment.
“This was something I never thought I could do,” Haring-Furment said. “All the staff at Passage House were there to build me up, support me, tell me I could do it, encourage me to try, try again, and be there for me when it did not go exactly as planned. This was so healing.”
Haring-Furment continues to visit Passage House every week -- befriending new residents, offering them encouragement, supporting the staff and illustrating that Passage House can help you better your situation if you are only open to it.
“It has taken a lot of hard work and dedication, but I feel I am now worth it,” Haring-Furment said. “I hope that I will have the ability to encourage and motivate other young mothers to make a difference in their own life by coming to Passage House.”
To volunteer as a mentor or for information about donating to Passage House, please contact Gena Graves, Passage House Coordinator, at 907-333-2023 or firstname.lastname@example.org.