Mexico Trek!   Trekkers DISPATCH: August 15 Team Log

What would you do if you were living on the streets?
Finding a home at Covenant House

You're rushing up Western Avenue and you know you're late for curfew. You run through the gated green Covenant House archway at 9:09pm, getting the receptionist to buzz you in past security.

TheoIt's Saturday night, but you know that Theo, the Resident Advisor, is totally strict. He smiles at you knowingly while you put your duffel bag through the metal detector. He's strict about rules, but at least he never changes them: You get moved from green level (high privileges) to yellow level (medium privileges- at least you're not going down to red level, which means you have curfew at 6pm - no way!). Luckily, you can move back to green level if you do 1 chore tonight for 30 minutes, and complete another 4 chores this week.

Welcome to Covenant House Los Angeles. No smoking, drinking, or swearing. About 50 people like Theo work here full-time here in the crisis center, taking care of 36 men and 12 women, all under the age of 18. Another 8 men live in ROP, Rights of Passage, without such heavy supervision, but they've had to prove themselves to get there.

There are 19 Covenant Houses around the country, all funded completely by donations. A variety of services are available to help people:

  • CHAMP for rehabilitation from substance abuse
  • a free medical facility with nurse practitioners on staff and physicians who routinely come in from UCLA and the Children's Hospital.
  • an educational specialist to help you with school (Covenant House's goal is to help you work for either full-time employment or full-time education)
  • and internships and training in the community. One person even got to do some training as a grip at Paramount Pictures!

They even have computers, and although you can't surf the Net, you can do word processing. Covenant House even has a bank where you can deposit your money when you get your paycheck, so you know what it's really like saving money. They give you 10% cash back from each paycheck you deposit there, and when you graduate from the ROP program, you take all of your earnings with you. Covenant House does not keep anything for their services.

It doesn't come easy. You work here, and you're always on your toes because Theo and the case managers, who work in two shifts, from 7am-3pm and 2pm-10pm, don't take any playing around. You're assigned to a case manager the minute you come here, and they keep a thick chart on you. Everything on you is in there, even the embarrassing things. If you don't respect the opportunity you have here and you continually mess up, you have to leave Covenant House — and there's a long waiting list to get in here.

So you get yourself settled in and head to the cafeteria to see if there's anything to snack on. Dinner was at 5:00-5:30 for your group (there's 3 dinner shifts, and you can't mix with other shifts). In the rec room a couple other residents are starting a game of Monopoly, and even though all the $1 bills are made of slips of paper (someone walked off with the paper money), they still play with $500 in the middle of the board if you land on free parking. You take your seat at the game and the activities director walks in — just back from a game: the Padres vs. the Braves. And your bunkmate got an autographed baseball!

As Theo says, "There's always a light at the end of the rainbow."


Other dispatches from today: 
Silvia: Thoughts on homeless youth.
Monica: Thoughts on making it in life.
Shawn: Covenant House Impressions

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