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Covenant House opens in Chicago

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Covenant House, an international youth homeless support agency, has opened its first new location in 17 years, choosing Chicago to expand its brand. They are starting as a drop-in center in the Lawson House, 30 W. Chicago Ave., but they plan to open an actual shelter later this year.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined Covenant House International for the official opening Feb. 14. Dozens of Covenant House supporters, plus Chicago Foundations, other youth homeless agencies and media were at the opening.

Based on 2016 Point-in-Time Count data, the city estimates that there are as many as 500 youth ages 16-24 experiencing homelessness on any given night in Chicago.

Covenant House Illinois will help fill a critical need for youth ages 18-24 with drop-in services and safe daytime space when overnight shelters close in the morning. These services, which will be offered Tuesdays through Saturdays, include breakfast and lunch, showers, laundry, lockers for safe storage of personal belongings, crisis care, case management and a computer lab. The lockers are provided by Chicago Youth Storage Initiative.

"These are young people who have aged out of the foster care system—or, sadly, maybe never have had a stable, safe place to call home," said Joseph Mole, the new executive director of Covenant House Illinois. "One-third of the homeless youth in our city have been thrown out of their homes by a parent or guardian for a variety of reasons.They need help to stay away from gangs, drug dealers, child traffickers and pimps who prey on these vulnerable youth. We give them support, compassion, a path out. "

In addition to the day services, Covenant House Illinois is also partnering with a number of existing organizations to provide more extensive support, including Haymarket for substance abuse treatment, Thresholds for mental health services, Heartland Health Outreach for medical care, Cara for employment skills and Cabrini Green Legal Aid for legal services. All of these collaborators will offer services onsite.

Also attending the event were Chicago Department of Family and Support Services ( DFSS ) Commissioner Lisa Morrison Butler; Maria Kim, president and CEO, Cara Chicago, which will do job training for clients at Covenant House; Kevin Ryan, president and CEO, Covenant House International; Tom McGee, president and CEO, ICSC and board chair, Covenant House International; and Covenant House Illinois Board Chair Mark J. Hennessy.

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