Cov Champions Illuminate the Path Toward Ending Youth Homelessness

Covenant House Sleep Out at Times Square | Providing safe shelter and care to homeless kids

In support of Youth Homelessness Awareness Month this November, over 3,600 Sleep Out participants in 22 cities across four countries joined with longtime champions of Covenant House, including stars from the world of entertainment, sports, and business in a month-long series of awareness and advocacy events with a simple, powerful message: No young person should be without a safe place to sleep.

“Covenant House is going to be the catalyst for ending youth homelessness," said Covenant House president and CEO Bill Bedrossian, addressing thousands of supporters and tourists to kick off the first-ever Sleep Out in Times Square in New York City on November 16. “What you’re doing tonight matters. There are 4.2 million youth experiencing homelessness each year in the U.S. alone. It is our moral obligation as a society to provide safe places for young people to sleep, to have no young person go hungry, no young person caught in the nightmare of human trafficking. We need to join with the voices of our young people to change laws, policies, and practices that lead to youth and young families becoming homeless in the first place.” 

Covenant House Sleep Out at Times Square | Providing safe shelter and care to homeless kids

David Ambroz, author of A Place Called Home, recalled being four years old and begging on the Metro North train line while living under Grand Central Station in New York City with his mom, brother, and sister. “Not a single person looked at me and the message was so clear: Your life doesn’t matter.

“I chose to share my story because people are walking past it,” Ambroz said, while standing on a stage overlooking the streets where he once slept. “Covenant House offers the start of healing for so many. We are literally at a crossroads. Other than the laws of physics, everything is a choice. We don’t have to choose to live like this. Our young people don’t have to live like this. I demand we make a different choice.”

While promoting her new movie, Wish, Academy-Award winner and Covenant House International board member Ariana DeBose appeared on the popular ABC television program, The View, and shared what makes our work special to her. “Covenant House does beautiful work, work that is very inclusive of young people,” she said. “The young people are leading the charge and helping provide the answers on how to eradicate homelessness. And Covenant House is giving them every opportunity to find success, to find their passion, and to acknowledge they are not their circumstances. There was always someone there helping me to find some answers growing up. I am really proud to be able to show up for young people in this way.”

New York Knicks superstar and chair of the new Covenant House Player Ambassador Council, Jalen Brunson, visited the world-famous Empire State Building on November 16 to flip the light switch in honor of Youth Homelessness Awareness Month. The building was lit in Covenant House’s signature blue and yellow.

“Fighting homelessness has been important to me and my family for years,” said Brunson. “When I learned about how many youth are struggling to find shelter, it struck a nerve. I am so thankful to have a platform that will raise awareness and shed light on the need to support youth who are striving to live their best lives. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some of these young people who are some of the most resilient people I’ve ever met. Everyone deserves a warm, safe place to sleep. It is a basic, human right.”

NY Knicks player Jalen Brunson at Empire State Building on behalf of Covenant House

In Chicago, Susan Reyna-Guerrero, CEO of Covenant House Illinois, appeared on NewsNation and shared that on any given night, about 12,000 young people experience homelessness in the Windy City. “We’re able to provide shelter, food, laundry facilities, drop-in programming for young people going through a very traumatic experience in their life,” said Susan. “The goal of our advocacy and this Sleep Out is to raise awareness about the needs of young people experiencing homelessness. Those of us participating tonight can wake up tomorrow, go home, take a shower — but with our young people, they have to wake up the next morning, try to find a place to shower, try to figure out what to do for the next night as well. It’s a painful cycle that we are working to break.”

Covenant House Michigan CEO Meagan Dunn described the changing face of homelessness in Detroit. “For the young people we serve, it could be the young person serving your coffee, or your lunch. Or it could be young people who are couch-surfing. We are seeing a lot of different people experiencing homelessness for the first time. Homelessness can look like anyone.”

In addition to Ariana DeBose and Jalen Brunson, champions of Covenant House including Rachel Brosnahan, Brian Cashman, John Dickerson, Audra McDonald, Raúl Castillo, Saquon Barkley, Colton Ryan, Vernon Davis, Deatrich Wise, Jr., and many others shared their time and their talent to raise awareness and critical funds for the winter months ahead.

They were joined by numerous corporate partners, who engaged their employees in volunteer activities, Sleep Out teams, food and holiday gift donations, social media campaigns, and the simple act of just being present and spending time with our youth. We are so grateful to Cisco, Kia, Accenture, American Eagle, BlackRock, Chick-fil-A Tri-State, Delta Air Lines, Edrington, Hard Rock NYC, Morgan Stanley, NBA, NBPA,  New Tradition, Outfront, TSX Entertainment, The Starbucks Foundation, Tao Hospitality Group, Take-Two Interactive, IKEA Brooklyn, Shutterfly, Bob’s Discount Furniture, the New York Yankees, the New York Giants, the New England Patriots, and so many more.  

At every event throughout the month of November, our current and former residents stood tall, sharing their ideas, their enthusiasm, their dreams, and their stories. They advocated for housing, workforce development, and policies that will remove barriers and create opportunities for young people facing homelessness. 

In expressing thanks from Covenant House to the thousands of people who stood with our Covenant House youth this November, Mark, a recent alum, said it best. “I want to express my heartfelt gratitude. Your contributions are shaping a better future. A future that makes space for me to dream: Of traveling the world, of becoming a homeowner, and of advocating for homeless youth.”

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