Bill's Blog: Leading in St. Louis

St Louis, Missouri - Covenant House Bill's Blog: Stories of Shelter, Stability, and Survival - Youth Homelessness

Bill’s Blog: Stories of Shelter, Stability, and Survival.

Blog Two: Leading in St. Louis

Bill Bedrossian | Covenant House President & CEO

Welcome to the second in my monthly blog posts about the unique and valuable moments that are happening at our sites.

Today we travel to St. Louis, where we catch up with Yusef Scoggin, chief executive officer of Covenant House Missouri, a site established in 1998 as a small outreach program in St. Louis that is now providing transformative solutions to help young people ages 16 to 24 build productive, independent, and sustainable lives.

Yusef is a medical doctor and one of our brightest new leaders in the movement to end youth homelessness as we know it.

Yusef gets to the core of the problem faced by many of our youth at Covenant House. He’s been this way since we first interviewed him for the role.

“It's about education. It's about employment. It's about environment. We need an environment which reinforces hope. I have some affluent neighbors who say, “Hey, what's the solution?” I say, 

“The same thing that you want for your children is the same thing that someone else wants for their child."

Yusef’s simple yet powerful statement cuts to the heart of the matter. It challenges us to extend the same care, resources, and commitment to all young people in our communities, not just those within our own families or those who can afford those opportunities. It challenges us to think hard about what our own responsibility is to the countless young people who were not born into the privilege that many of us were. If we truly took ownership and acted upon this principle, it would create change in our cities, job markets, and the lives of youth across the Americas.

As Yusef declares, we must tackle the issue of youth homelessness from multiple angles. It is critical to begin before a young person even reaches a crisis point. A community culture where we can be as ambitious for them as we are for our own kids –

Yousef Scoggins, chief executive officer of Covenant House Missouri

and perhaps even more so, if we need to tip the scales for those who have begun at a disadvantage, as many in St. Louis do.

We hear and repeat the tropes, “let’s level the playing field” and “let’s get everyone to the same starting line,” but are we all really doing what it takes to make it happen for youth who have been failed over and over by people and systems?

The City of St. Louis has a high poverty rate, with 21.8% of the population living below the federal poverty line in 2019. That’s more than one in every five individuals.

Racial disparities in poverty are stark. Black adults in St. Louis are more than twice as likely to live in poverty compared to white adults, with a poverty rate of 25.8% for Black adults versus 10.3% for white adults.

Youth poverty, too, is a major issue, with the Census Bureau estimating that 29.5% of people under 18 in St. Louis lived in poverty as of 2018.

Taken together, these stark stats paint a difficult future for too many St. Louis youth.

We can change that future, but not without a plan. A plan that touches every aspect of the lives of our youth and addresses those external forces they have no control over. Indeed, The Journey Home, our roadmap for ending youth homelessness as we know it incorporates prevention, intervention, and restoration: building a holistic approach to the challenges we face.

But there’s something else. Something critical we must not forget – hope and joy. We must illuminate the pathway for our youth with hope and joy. It is our duty to them to lift and inspire. Something that Yusef and his team in Missouri are passionate about doing.

He says, “My joy is empowerment, and this is a core element of what Covenant House does. We are a holistic youth empowerment program that is really focused on addressing all youths’ needs and, so, really opening the eyes of both staff and youth to the many possibilities.”

It’s time to be more ambitious. More driven. More radical. More hopeful.

I want to thank Yusef and the team at Covenant House Missouri for the work they’re doing in St. Louis. And I want, especially, to thank you for remaining committed to Covenant House youth and their individual journeys of success. Let me know your thoughts. Shoot me an email here. And don't forget to donate – without fuel we can’t keep the fires of hope burning for our youth.

Thank you for your time. More next month.


Bill Bedrossian Signature

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