An interview with Alison Brodie, Covenant House’s Development Officer, Corporate and Foundation Giving
Tell us a bit about Covenant House and your role there.
Covenant House Vancouver exists to provide love, hope, and opportunity to youth experiencing homelessness and housing instability. We help homeless and at-risk youth aged 16 through 24 who have fled various kinds of abuse, who have been forced from their homes, and who have aged out of foster care. When youth arrive at Covenant House, they are greeted without judgment – often for the first time in their lives.
Covenant House Vancouver provides a range of programs and services designed to give each young person the tools they need to make positive changes in their lives and eventually achieve healthy independence.
Our strategically designed Continuum of Care features three core programs: Community Support Services, which includes Street Outreach and our Drop-in Centre, a Crisis Program, and a transitional living program called Rights of Passage. These programs are complemented by in-house drug, alcohol, and mental health counselling, as well as extensive life-skills training.
I’m fortunate to work with some of our amazing corporate and foundation donors in my role on Covenant House Vancouver’s Development & Communications team. Covenant House Vancouver is 95% privately funded, and my job is to connect donors with a meaningful way to make an impact in our community.
Who does Covenant House provide services for?
Covenant House Vancouver supports youth aged 16 through 24 who are experiencing, or are at-risk of experiencing, homelessness. Many of the youth who access Covenant House have been abused, suffered trauma, and experienced neglect, and oftentimes they’re coming to us because they have nowhere else to go.
The road to youth homelessness can be long and complex. Each of the youth that we work with has experienced a distinct set of circumstances, but some similarities do exist. For example, most have experienced significant trauma in their early lives, and 70% of our youth have witnessed family violence.
We are committed to caring for all youth experiencing homelessness and providing them with the services they need to find stability and improve their lives.
What obstacles do your programs help youth overcome?
Most of the youth at Covenant House have fled traumatic situations and chaotic environments, and they haven’t had the opportunity or the guidance to develop the life skills many of us take for granted. The challenges that they face can be short term, like getting an ID or applying for Income Assistance, or more long-lasting, like addressing their mental health concerns or reestablishing relationships with their families.
Covenant House Vancouver provides a “one stop shop” suite of programs and services designed to give each young person the tools they need to make positive changes in their lives. Our job is to meet youth wherever they are in their journeys and to help them achieve self-determined goals alongside a team of youth workers, social workers, and registered clinical counselors.
How has Covid-19 impacted your programs and community?
Covenant House Vancouver’s role and responsibility during the COVID-19 pandemic, as it is at any time, is to care for the health and well-being of young people who have experienced homelessness. Although COVID-19 has presented us with specific challenges, our doors have remained open and we have continued to provide youth with shelter, food, counselling, and medical care.
In response to the pandemic, Covenant House Vancouver made some adjustments to our programs to ensure that youth and staff are safe and to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. Our primary motivation is to continue serving homeless young people in the best way we can while keeping our youth and staff healthy.
The COVID-19 pandemic has meant greater challenges for youth who are experiencing homelessness, particularly because it’s difficult to distance from others and practice good hygiene without a safe place to stay. In addition, the youth we work with are at a higher risk for infections, chronic illnesses and compromised immune systems, and many have experienced trauma and mental illness.
However, our frontline staff and the youth we work with are amazing and have really adapted to this new environment. We’ll continue to adapt and find new ways to provide services to youth as the pandemic evolves and changes.
How can others help?
COVID-19 has presented Covenant House with both fundraising challenges and increased expenses. We were compelled to indefinitely postpone some of our core fundraising events, while others have been moved online. As a result, our most urgent need is to raise program funding so we can continue to provide services to youth, as well as to respond immediately as the COVID-19 crisis evolves and changes.
As always, our ability to serve the youth in our community and withstand unexpected challenges is only possible through the continued and generous support of people like you.
If you’re interested in getting involved with Covenant House Vancouver, please check out our website (covenanthousebc.org) or give us a call at 604.638.4438.