Covenant House opens long-term housing and vocational training centers for homeless youth

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One of the bedrooms at Covey Academy. (Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media)

Covenant House Alaska has been providing shelter services to homeless youth in Anchorage for over 30 years. Now they are opening two new buildings to provide vocational training and longer term housing.

After a year of construction, Friday marked the opening of Covey Lofts and Covey Academy. The two buildings are located on opposite sides of the Covenant House in the town centre.

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The idea is to give the young people they serve more independence while keeping them connected to services, said CEO Alison Kear.

“During the pandemic, we realized that the collective environment was not the safest space for young people, nor did it give them independence,” she said. “But we also realized that some people need a family and a community around them so that their independence can be supported.”

An empty living room with chairs and a television
A living space for teenagers staying in the new Covenant House facilities. Friday, June 24, 2022 (Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media)

Covey Lofts is a four story building with 22 apartments. Starting in the fall, they will be open to anyone from the Covenant House shelter between the ages of 18 and 25 in need of long-term housing. Each room has a double bed, a television, a microwave and an integrated bathroom. The building will be manned 24/7 by Covenant House employees.

Cook Inlet Housing partnered with Covenant House to build the lofts. Residents will still have access to shelter meals and other services provided by Covenant House.

Next door, Covey Academy offers professional training in a variety of industries. There is an industrial kitchen where students can prepare for culinary jobs.

“We already have several restaurants in the city that have said, ‘You train them here and we’ll hire them,’ which is really exciting for us,” said Heidi Huppert, program manager.

There are classrooms where they will learn how to write resumes and cover letters. There are conference rooms where students can have interviews or meet with seniors. And there are high-tech simulators that allow students to try driving big rigs or operating heavy equipment.

“Our young people can get a first taste of what it could be like,” Huppert said. “If they really get into using a crane or a CAT, this is an opportunity to continue their training and send them to those courses to get higher certifications.”

A driving simulator with a steering wheel in front.
Young homeless can practice their driving skills with this driving simulator. Friday, June 24, 2022 (Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media)

Upstairs are 19 accommodations similar to the Covey Lofts. Down the hall is a laundry room, gym, kitchen and living rooms. The 19 young people who will live in this building will undergo long-term training at the Covey Academy.

Covey Academy will be open to vulnerable young people in the community, whether or not they live at Covey Academy or the Lofts.

Partner organizations — like the state Department of Labor, Anchorage School District, and Nine Star Education and Employment Services — have offices in the building. Kevin Ryan, president of Covenant House International, said the project is the result of citywide and statewide collaboration.

“This all happened because there’s a big movement of people in this community who want to make sure no child is left alone on the streets,” he said. “This is a public-private partnership that brings together people from business, civic associations, government, to help young people build the scaffolding of their lives so they can sustainably overcome homelessness. .”

Kear said it’s important to remember that there is no one size fits all when it comes to preventing and addressing youth homelessness. She and other leaders hope these new spaces will provide more opportunities for young people to have a secure, stable and prosperous future.

A brown building next to a dark gray building with green bushes in front
The new Covenant House facility has been under construction since the summer of 2021. Friday, June 24, 2022 (Matthew Faubion/Alaska Public Media)

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