The road to home

This week, my second CCC site visit took me to Covenant House New York. Approximate 3,800 youth are homeless in New York City. Young people who are unable to find youth homeless shelters do not feel safe in adult city shelters and end up on the streets or prostitute themselves for a night’s warm bed in someone’s apartment while others engage in delinquent behaviors to stay alive.  Many youth become homeless due to poverty, conflicts within their foster homes, families unable to cope with mental health or LGBTQ issues. Many are not in school and not in the labor force, nor do they have high school diplomas. Many are survivors of physical, emotional or sexual abuse. In one year, Covenant House provides a home to as many as 3300 youth in crisis and has to turn away 100 youth on any given night because there isn’t enough space. 

As I spent half the day learning about homeless youth in New York City, I had to restrain myself from becoming too overwhelmed as I listened to N. share individual youths’ stories about how they arrive at Covenant House and whether or not they make it out – successfully. One is an account of a young woman who was trafficked into the United States and held captive and prostituted for five years to be raped 30 times a day. She was able to run away from her captor and seek sanctuary at Covenant House. Another is the reality of foster care families gone bad, and a youth sees running away as his only way out. This is not uncommon.

I can already tell that this course will have an incredible impact on my worldview as I learn more about advocacy, especially for children. While some mothers-to-be may be shopping for the hippest maternity wear, this most nurturing experience comes at a time when I find myself thoughtfully tussling with work-life balance, quality of life and the anticipation of being an effective and loving disciplinarian as we wait for our child referral. It takes me the next couple of days after class to decompress, and I, an adoptive mama-in-waiting, struggle with how resources, especially social services, in the United States compare with those abroad in Africa, Latin America or Asia. In the States, people have the means to pull themselves out of tremendously difficult and traumatic situations with the assistance of government infrastructures. Not necessarily so in other parts of the world. Sadly, not necessarily so.

Still, all children deserve to be healthy, housed, educated and safe.  On my daily commute in and out of Port Authority, I can see Covenant House on 41st Street and 10th Avenue . . . and now be all the more aware.