My co-fellow and I work with homeless youth that come through the doors of Covenant House, New Jersey. My main duty is to help these disadvantaged youth access healthcare. So when they first come to Covenant house, as a counselor, my objective is to build a trusting relationship in order for me to be able to help them. After introducing myself I ask them to share with me their past health history and the circumstances that led to their coming to Covenant House. Listening to them share their past health history with me is not just an opportunity to extract information, this also creates a good rapport and helps build trust. Ultimately, I am able to assess their healthcare needs, both immediate and long term. At this point, I give the youth assurance that I will work tirelessly to help them access the healthcare they need, regardless of their Medicaid status.
As the youth share their stories with me, I have come to realize that there is a lot of injustice that goes unaddressed and leads to homelessness. The most common experiences for the youth I care for are physical and sexual abuse. It is disheartening to learn that they run away from home or have been kicked out by their parents or guardians. They end up on the streets where they are unsurprisingly exposed to delinquent behavior, adult homelessness, mental health problems, gun violence and some become suicidal.
When these youth come to Covenant House they get access to healthcare, shelter, decent meals, educational, vocational and behavioral health services all under one roof. I, as a part of the team at Covenant House, serve them with unconditional love and respect to help them once more believe in and attain their dreams. We are always happy to see youth who move on from their crisis of homelessness into independent living and the pursuit of their dreams.
After all this good work has been done there are questions that keep bothering me at the back of my mind:
What about those who are not able to come through the doors of Covenant House?
How can communities help in trying to eradicate homelessness?
Why are the majority of the youth that we serve mainly Afro-American and Hispanics?
Sometimes I think homelessness is as a result of social disintegration of communities, a reflection of economic oppression within communities and the failure of society to address injustices that go on and on and become a vicious cycle.
I believe we can only break this cycle through our commitment to reduce social injustice. The causes of homelessness go beyond what Covenant House as an organization is capable of doing and calls for collaboration across sectors and disciplines to address the inequalities.