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Organization Spotlight: Covenant House

covenant-house-logoAs part of the DP World ‘Our World, Our Future’ global sustainability programme, we believe strongly in building a vibrant, secure and resilient society through strategic investment in the issues that affect our people and our industry. While that definitely includes our own internal programs, we also believe in helping other businesses that have similar goals reach their objectives.

There are many organizations working to improve the lives of those who call Vancouver home— it can be difficult selecting one to include in your company’s corporate social responsibility plan. To help, we’re spotlighting a variety of worthy causes. This time, we’re focusing on Covenant House, a privately funded organization that helps at-risk and homeless youths aged 16 to 24.

The Mission

Covenant House helps homeless youth become independent members of society. Located in downtown Vancouver, Covenant House provides a continuum of care designed to meet the immediate, individual needs of youth through a variety of services, including a Drop-In Centre (that annually serves around 1,000 kids), residential crisis programs and a transitional housing program.

The first step in aiding homeless youth is to meet them where they are on the streets. Covenant House’s street outreach program interacts with hundreds each year. This first contact serves as an important step in building a trusting relationship with homeless adolescents and is an opportunity for Covenant House to inform them of community resources and steps they can take to leave homelessness behind.

Youth are invited to come by for a hot meal, clean clothes and safe place to get warm in the Drop-In Centre. In this same building is the 24-bed female-only Crisis Program, more commonly referred to as a “shelter”. But this shelter is much more than just a place to sleep for the night as youth can stay for as long as they need to and are supported as they take steps, every single day, to improve their lives. In a second building downtown Vancouver, is the other Crisis Program that provides 30 beds to male youth. To support youth across all of their programming, Mental Health clinicians, case managers and youth workers are on staff to help youth overcome crisis and progress with education, employment and housing.

Covenant House also offers Rights of Passage, a long-term transitional housing program. Individuals in the program spend a minimum of ten months (and up to multiple years) living in one of 25 apartments while either going to school, working full-time, or a combination of the two. They are taught vital life skills, such as budgeting, cooking, cleaning, and buying groceries on a budget. They also have access to mental health and vocational counseling.

Rights of Passage has an incredible track record of success: 100 percent of participants successfully move on to sustain housing, employment and healthy independence. When youth are ready to move on their own, Covenant House’s housing support staff help them find and maintain a place to live and continue on a path of success. For example, they might meet with an individual weekly to go over finances, teach them how to cook a dish or advise them on communicating with their landlord.

What Drives The Covenant House Team

Helping disadvantaged youths move on from homelessness is no easy task, but the team at Covenant House is fueled by an unwavering belief that the 1,400 served annually deserve a second chance and a brighter future. Many homeless youth have fallen on tough times through no fault of their own – fleeing unsafe homes or aging out of foster care. Besides helping the kids overcome their past and current challenges, an important part of the staff’s job is to help them recognize that their situation is not their fault, and that they can move on and have a successful, fulfilling life.

How Your Organization Can Help

To aid Covenant House Vancouver, companies first should give the organization a call to learn more about the programs and the kids that they serve. It can be easy to make negative assumptions about these troubled youth, but many of the kids in Covenant House programs have unstable homes, have experienced violence and are extremely vulnerable on the streets.

Because Covenant House Vancouver is primarily privately funded, your financial donations will have an immediate and vital impact. There are also volunteer opportunities which include sorting gift-in-kind donations and working the Thank-A-Thons. Thousands of donors are called and thanked each year through the Thank-A-Thon program, which helps the ogranization retain 20 percent more donors than the industry average.

Material, or gift-in-kind, donations are also always appreciated. Needed items include:

  • Gently used clothing (appropriate for youth aged 16 to 24)
  • Unused socks and underwear
  • Toiletries (unused)
  • Gently used linens

For more ideas, check out Covenant House’s wish list. If your company is interested in setting up a collection drive, get in touch with the organization directly for a specific and up-to-date list. Items that can’t be accepted include furniture, beds, used underwear and perishable food items. Check online for a full list.