Youth Ambassador, Mistou, is Leaving Her Mark at Covenant House 

Covenant House Alumni Mistou

Imagine walking into a well-lit room filled with people and noticing one person who appears to have an extra beam of light shining down on them. That’s Mistou! She glows from the inside out, and makes everyone around her feel welcomed and loved. 

So, how does a young woman experiencing homelessness keep her light from dimming? She asks for help when she needs it, and then turns around and offers her help to the next person in need. Mistou is humanity in its purest form, and youth and staff at Covenant House New York are benefiting greatly from her time in residence.

Mistou left West Africa alone three years ago with a dream of creating a different life for herself. New York City felt like a place where she could do it, although she knew very little about life in the city. With very few resources and no realistic plan for her future, she bravely walked into a police station and asked for help.

She shares, “The first month I got here, I was so lost. I was so confused. I came by myself and the people that were supposed to help me out did not support me. I didn't know who to turn to. No family here but myself. I was like, should I go back? And I didn't know how to go back. And when I went to that police station, I was so scared I would get in trouble. Instead, the lady there asked me if I had heard about shelters? And she gave me the address of Covenant House.”

Like many young people who find their way to Covenant House, Mistou didn’t know what to expect or what would be expected of her. “When I came here, the first thing they asked me was, what do you need? It's not like, oh, a bunch of questions to scare me out and all that. When they asked me that question, it refreshed my mind, and I was like, oh, I'm hungry. Do you have anything? They said, yeah, and I thought they would just give me a glass of water. I still remember what I ate — chicken breast, salad, some chips, vegetables, and juice. I ate everything. I filled my belly, and I was happy. And then they did my intake and gave me a bed.”

Mistou’s case manager, Samantha, encouraged Mistou as she tackled some of the obstacles that were in her way from her childhood. Samantha reminded Mistou she can’t change what already happened, so, instead, they focused on what she can change now. She asked Mistou, “What's the next step? What do you want to do?” Growing up, nobody gave Mistou permission to do what she wanted to do, so this was equally invigorating and nerve-wracking for her. 

So, with a bright smile on her face, Mistou took her time and began imagining a future for herself. “I didn't visualize everything at once. I just started putting A and B together,” is how she describes her first few weeks at Covenant House. And then it sparked for her. She wants to be an art teacher! She loves children and she’s loved art her whole life.

After three months in our short-term housing program in Manhattan, Mistou moved into one of our transitional housing programs in the Bronx, where she has been living for more than a year. She feels as though her life is more organized. “The fact that I have a plan now. I have something to begin with. I still have some stuff going on, but I have more confidence, and I can face it. I can find a solution,” she says. 

In an effort to meet new people and strengthen her public speaking skills, Mistou joined our Youth Ambassador program. The program gives her a glimpse behind the scenes and allows her the opportunity to voice youth issues. She has grown more comfortable telling her story. She asks people not for sympathy but to remember that little choices can lead to change. “Some other people have done it, so why not you?” she tells other youth at Covenant House.

And what does she tell supporters of Covenant House? “Your choice to give makes a change for someone like me. Covenant House saved my life. If there’s no Covenant House, there is no me.”

Mistou is currently seeking meaningful employment and stable housing with a long-term goal of going to college to get her license in teaching, so she can become an art teacher and help others pursue their dreams.

Shelter Is Only the Beginning

From crisis to care: Find out what it's like when a young person enters our doors.