Insight

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

Philadelphia Skyline
Bill Bedrossian | Covenant House President & CEO

Blog One: Philly Foodies

Welcome to the first in a series of blog posts.

My aim with these blogs is to provide you with interesting, informative notes from my travels across the Covenant House federation, sharing unique and valuable moments that are happening at our sites.

Appropriately, this first blog is from my hometown — Philly. Our new chief executive officer, Alexia Clarke, linked me with a food story from the Covenant House Pennsylvania site — a perfect subject, as we just wrapped up our annual March Meals Match campaign. And, no, this is not a debate about where to find the best cheesesteak in town (in my opinion, it’s Jim’s Steaks!).

More importantly, I’m excited to share the perspectives of the most important people at Covenant House – our youth! Hearing and learning from young people at each of our sites is the highlight of all my travels and consistently grounds me to keep our mission and efforts to end youth homelessness as a priority in all that we do.

“I am fortunate to have food around me and I do not take that for granted.”

The quote above is from Kay’lah, a resident at Covenant House in Philadelphia.

Kay’lah was taking part in a regular cooking class with CHPA chef Mr. Tim.

Mr. Tim says he runs the classes because “I want to give back to our community. And to show our young adults that you can cook healthy, delicious food at an affordable price.”

Other food programs offered at CHPA include a monthly community dinner — a cooking competition where youth show off their cooking skills. I heard this week they cooked a savory omelet, sweet French toast, and yogurt parfaits!

And here’s why this work building cooking skills with our young people is so critical.

Many young people who have experienced housing instability have encountered varying degrees of food insecurity. When they find themselves without a home, these young people are preoccupied with securing their next meal and a safe place to sleep each night. If fortunate, they may access meals through school lunch programs, saving portions to stave off hunger later in the day. Others might rely on the hospitality of friends while temporarily staying with them. At the same time, some, facing severe deprivation, might resort to risky behaviors like stealing food or engaging in transactional sexual activity to obtain sustenance.

Yogurt Parfait

A prevailing belief among young people facing homelessness is that charitable feeding programs are inaccessible to teenagers and young adults. Consequently, it's not surprising that a study revealed that approximately half of youth experiencing homelessness struggled to obtain enough food, with the majority experiencing at least one day in the preceding month without any food at all.

The irregular eating patterns typical of adolescents, coupled with unreliable access to food sources, exposes them to significant risks of malnutrition and exacerbates other health challenges that impact developmental, behavioral, and psychological growth.

Our objective at Covenant House is to provide food security by way of structured mealtimes and nutrient-rich food for all young people in our care. We need to make food ‘friendly’ for our youth, not something that they fear being without. That’s why initiatives like these in Philly are so important.

At the same time, these youth also learn vital skill-building, sharing, and a sense of community. It’s what we do at Covenant House. And we do it well.

It’s all part of our strategic vision to end youth homelessness as we know it. We aim to expand and increase youth involvement in life skills planning through mentoring and teaching.

An ambitious plan? Absolutely! However, any ambition less than this just won't suffice.

We must move forward with courage and determination. Our youth deserve no less.

I want to thank Kay’lah Green, Mr. Tim, and the team at Covenant House Pennsylvania. And to remind you that our food programs are open for support — you can make a difference right now with a donation that provides immediate vital care and a full array of services young people urgently need!

Let’s show youth like our Philly Foodies — who despite being homeless and all that entails, are working to learn and build their skills — and are deserving of nourishing food, a safe place to sleep, and the love of our community.

Best,

Bill Bedrossian Signature