Covenant House connects with homeless kids

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    Covenant House webCovenant House Michigan, which provides shelter, an education and vocational programs to youth age 16-22, also has a mobile outreach unit, which travels around metro Detroit to let young people know about the organization’s services.

    Stephanie Taylor, outreach manager, said the outreach team talks to every young person they can about services available at Covenant House because so many young kids are out on the streets.

    There’s only one van, but two teams. The outreach operation is from 9 a.m. to 5 pm. on Monday and Tuesday; and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Part-time workers work the afternoons Wednesday through Sunday.

    Taylor keeps her phone on all the time because she never knows when she might get a call.

    “There’s been times that at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning, if I get a call and the kid is not safe, I might have to go out and get him,” she said. “But if can find other means, like help from a crisis shelter, or help from other entities to get the kid to the location, I’ll do that.”

    She admitted that it sometimes takes time for the outreach team to build a relationship of trust with the kids they encounter, saying that about 80 percent of the kids do not go with them at the first meeting, because a lot of them have been lied to in the past.

    The outreach team covers the entire metro area. They’ve even gone as far away as Flint.

    When Taylor started 14 years ago, working as the assistant to the then outreach manager, the outreach team went about on foot. It was only after discovering that a lot of kids they encountered were using the same address that they realized how many were homeless.

    “They really didn’t have an address,” Taylor said. “They were going from place to place.”

    She said the outreach team reported that fact to their supervisors, and that Covenant House Michigan — which didn’t have a shelter at the time — subsequently saw there was a need to help young people. The organization put programs together to help meet those needs, including the establishment of a shelter and having a team go out in a van. She pointed out that one can only go so many blocks on foot.

    Taylor said once they started going out in the van and covering a larger area, the outreach team found there were more homeless kids out there.

    “What ended up happening is they decided to open up the shelter here, and the first day it was full,” she said.

    According to Melissa Golpe, Covenant House Michigan’s marketing/PR director, Covenant House Michigan started in 1997. There are 45 beds in this program. 

    “It’s our Caritas Center, Golpe said. “It’s like a crisis center where they first come in.”

    From the Caritas program, residents can transition into the two-year transitional housing Rites of Passage program, which has 30 beds. A lot of residents are going to school and/or working at that point and getting ready to become independent.

    Golpe added that Covenant House has a high school on campus, Covenant House Academy. There’s also one on the east side and one in Southwest Detroit. The school on campus was started in 2005.

    Golpe also said residents can apply to be junior staff. One junior staff member for the outreach program is Michelle Whorton.

    Michelle works in the evenings as junior staff for the outreach program, along with a partnerm, Maria. She said they’ve been focusing on the Mt. Elliott area and the Fairlane bus stop in Dearborn.

    “There are a lot of older adults with children, and there are teenagers who may need a place to stay,” Michelle said. “I’ve encountered a young man who needed place to stay. He got here in the past week.”

    Michelle will be going to Henry Ford Community College this month, studying psychology.

    Resident Touraine Taylor had been in foster care until he turned 18  in February. At the time, he got a letter in the mail telling him the guardianship he was under was terminated and that he was no longer in the system. 

    He decided to come to Covenant House because he needed a place to go and a place to continue his education. He’s a senior at Covenant House Academy, and said he refused to drop out of high school because doing so means eliminating most of the chances you get in life. He was thankful when he found out there’s a place he can live and still go to school. 

    School is open year-round. Golpe said students can attend for four hours a day, all day and/or on Saturdays.

    Touraine Taylor is considering going to Ferris State to study pre-law. He said he’s already received his acceptance letter. He also has received scholarships in both baseball and mixed martial arts, a subject he loves. In addition, he’s interested in biomechanics and is considering studying that subject at the University of Leicester in Leicester, England.

    He also wants to get as many opportunities as he can. So right now, he’s looking to pick up another trade.

    “I have a trade in culinary arts,” he said. “I love cooking. I love food.”

    Asked what’s been the best thing about Covenant House, Touraine said the communication is excellent.

    “Being around other people who actually care,” Whorton said.

    In 10 years, Touraine Taylor sees himself as either a baseball player, lawyer, biochemical engineer or participating in the ultimate fighting championships.

    Michelle Whorton sees herself with a bachelor’s degree in fashion merchandising, and  hopefully owning her own boutique.

    Asked the key thing about Covenant House she wants the general public — especially kids — to know, Michelle said she wants people to know that help is always there, and to always have fai
    th in God. She said God placed her in Covenant House to make a difference for young teens that struggle at home.

    Touraine Taylor said Covenant House is more like a youth program than a homeless shelter, and that it helps people get their lives together.

    Covenant House Michigan is located at 2959 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. For more information, call (313)463-2000 or visit http://www.covenanthousemi.org/.

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