Ironically, what drew Mike Giangiordano to get involved with homeless youth was his deep sense of neighborhood and family connection. “I’ve been here my whole life,” he explains, motioning to his East Passyunk neighborhood in South Philadelphia. “I went to grade school here, then St. Joe’s Prep[aratory School], then Drexel [University]. I’ve stayed close, and have no plans to go anywhere.”
The Giangiordano family roots date back 100 years. “My great-grandfather came here from Italy and started a produce shop several blocks away: Philip Giordano and Sons. My grandfather later took it over,” Mike recounts. His father would soon add real estate to the family business ventures, with Mike joining the Century 21 Forrester Real Estate team after college. “Our business is focused in this neighborhood,” he explains. “It’s what we know best.” As a kid, he and his friends would “walk the blocks.” “We weren’t allowed to go to far, but we could walk around with our friends and see all the neighbors.”
An active alumni of his grade school, Mike explains the significance of connection: “I like to stay connected, especially to places that have shaped me,” then adding, “and now Covenant House is one of those places.” Before encountering Covenant House, Mike thought that all homeless people were adults, adults who had services available to them if they chose to use them. He had no idea that young people could be homeless. “I just assumed that kids had somewhere to go. And when I found out that Covenant House was the only place [exclusively] for young people in the City—I knew I had to be involved.”
When Mike first went on a tour of Covenant House, he was mystified. “I just couldn’t believe that people would kick their kids out. Your family is supposed to be the place where you are surrounded by love. These kids didn’t have that.” Crediting his parents for his deep sense of service, Mike felt compelled to do something, even something small, to make life for a homeless young person a little easier. “Any small thing counts.”
For the past two and a half years, Mike has invested his time and energy in a variety of ways. “I’m less of a details guy, but I love relating to people...and I like asking them for money!” He has “slept out” for two years in a row. At Sleep Out’s, participants spend a night sleeping outside to raise money for Covenant House programs. He recalled that both experiences were deeply humbling: “I got to get up and go home to my warm bed. Homeless kids don’t get that option.”
Through his local business association, Mike’s family has sponsored a scholarship for a Covenant House youth attending college. Recently, he has gotten involved in advocacy. At the 2018 Sleep Out, he learned of legislation where young people who had been trafficked into the sex trade could be prosecuted as prostitutes. “That has got to change,” he insisted, and has already been in touch with a local state representative to bring the issue to the fore.
Mike’s hopes for the youth of Covenant House are no surprise. They are about connection. “I hope they will take away all they can from this place. And after they go, that they will stay connected with the organization. I know they are making important relationships here, friendships that can last a lifetime. I hope they will keep those. They are really valuable.”
Take it from Mikey G. He knows.