The house Hannah grew up in wasn’t really a home.
“My parents were active drug users,” she remembers. “We had an open door policy to junkies in my house.”
Due to their influence, by middle school, Hannah had become a drug addict. She was just a kid, and it was the only way of life she knew. It was the way she found acceptance in her own home.
At age 13, Hannah couldn’t stay at home any more. She walked out, thinking she might find a job and seek out a life better than the one she left behind.
But on the streets, her age and her addiction made her a target for men who troll for vulnerable young girls. A man more than ten years her senior stepped into her life, promising her love.
“I thought he genuinely cared, so I never questioned anything,” says Hannah.
Hannah eventually escaped her abuser, but one of the things that made it so difficult to leave and to overcome her drug addiction was the trauma. She acted out. Even when she did seek support, it didn’t last long: “I kept getting kicked out of any places I went to for help. I was just too hurt to believe anyone had good intentions.”
But when Hannah found Covenant House, everything changed. The dinners together, the nightly meetings with all of the girls on her floor, knowing that the staff cared unconditionally, without ever asking for anything in return — it added up to make the loving, stable family that Hannah never had.
“The case managers and social workers were like my own cheering squad,” says Hannah. “They helped me do my hair, they showed me how to get dressed for interviews — and most importantly, stood by me while I worked every day to stay sober.”
It was through Covenant House that Hannah discovered she loved to help others.
The first job she found, with the encouragement of her case manager and newfound family, was as a direct care worker for women with special needs. Inspired to do more, she enrolled in school full-time to study counseling.
School, to her surprise, was therapeutic in and of itself. Being in class with other kids, kids who hadn’t gone through life the way she had, made her feel normal and accepted. She was finally comfortable in her own skin.
“Taking the same test as all the other kids, being treated the same way as them, it reminded me that my past does not define me,” says Hannah.
Four years after she set foot in the classroom, Hannah graduated with a BA in Psychology, with honors. Covenant House staff attended the ceremony, cheering her on as she crossed the stage.
Today, Hannah has something she never thought she’d have: dreams for the future. “I want to go back to school for a Ph.D. in Clinical Psych,” she shares. “I want to open my own shelter one day.”
Her first stop: New Orleans, where she is currently living and working with individuals who are HIV positive.
“By being given stability, and housing, and love and kindness, I’ve been able to change,” Hannah says proudly.
Hannah is ready to be a family to others who need one, just as Covenant House was to her.