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Covenant House Illinois Offers Fresh Start For Young Homeless Men And Women

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Young homeless men and women in Chicago are getting a chance at a fresh start – from mental health counseling and drug recovery to job help and housing.

Covenant House Illinois is a one-stop safe space for young adults ages 18 to 24. And later this month, they will be expanding when they close on a new location to help even more young adults.

Most of the young adults at Covenant House have aged out of foster care. Some have been involved in sex trafficking, while others have struggled with drug addiction.

Covenant House Illinois is currently housed in the old Victor F. Lawson House YMCA building at 30 W. Chicago Ave., at Dearborn Street. It provides a safe space for homeless youth between 18 and 24 years old.

Covenant House has a closet for donations it receives virtually every week. It also provides three meals a day, 365 days out of the year.

It is a place to get, shower, do laundry and use computers. There are also 12 beds and 12 full-time staffers.

"Covenant House is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, providing services for the youth development center as well as our residential program," said Cheryl Hamilton-Hill, chief executive officer of Covenant House Illinois.

Joshua Fase, 20, was addicted to drugs and homeless. He has now been living at Covenant House for about four months.

"It's motivating me to do better, and it's motivating me to stay sober, and it's motivating me to stay focused on what I need to stay focused on," Fase said.

Among those focuses is getting a job.

"While one person builds your résumé, the other one's telling you: "Look, here's the interview skills you need. Here's how you dress. Here's how you speak. Here's how you look,'" said resident Lathen Murphy, 24. "They just set you up with the whole package."

"Whether they are aging out of foster care, if they have come because they lost their last surviving parent. We have youth come to us who've been trafficked," Hamilton-Hill said. "Wherever they are, we are able to meet their needs."

Covenant House offers medical and mental health care, legal services, life skills and job readiness, and counseling and support.

"As of February 24th of 2020, I will have two years clean off of Xanax, and I have almost seven months clean off of crystal meth," Fase said. "And I'm very, very proud of that."

Covenant House International is one of the largest providers of youth homeless services in North America. It opened its Chicago facility at the Lawson House in 2017.

And now, Hamilton-Hill said, "We are now acquiring a new space that will allow us to quadruple the amount of youth we serve on a daily and nightly basis."

The new facility will be located on Lake Street in the East Garfield Park neighborhood.

New Covenant House Space
(Credit: Covenant House)

But until they get there, the smaller facility seems to be working just fine.

"It's a good place to get away from all the bad influences being out in the homeless community," said Tyrese Pryor.

"Now I'm getting my life together," Fase said. "I just got a job two or three weeks ago at Inspiration Corporation."

Not only has Fase been able to remain clean from drugs and keep a job, the Covenant House has helped him reconnect with his biological family. He has even met his biological mom for the very first time.

Since opening, Covenant House Illinois has received more than 17,000 visits from youth. The staff there directly served about 600 people.


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