Not all stories begin sadly. For Charisma life was a mostly happy experience living with her mother and siblings in Philadelphia. But at the end of 2015, things began to change. Her mom could no longer afford rent and utilities and was forced to go into shelter with her younger siblings. Charisma and her daughter Angel, less than a year old at the time, were forced to begin the journey taken by many of our youth. Constantly moving from family members to friends to find a safe place to sleep, Charisma would check with the city shelters for space and hope each night that she and her daughter would have a safe place to stay.
At Covenant House, Charisma met our receptionist, Miss Melissa. “When I first walked through the doors, I was asked if I wanted a hot meal, but even though I was hungry, I said ‘no’ because I wasn’t used to people taking care of me.” Charisma smiled broadly recalling the sense of family she rediscovered while at Covenant House. “Miss Melissa was like my mom. I could talk to her about being a parent and get the advice I needed or she would just assure me things would get better. Miss Cherise and Miss Gabby were like my big sisters. Easy to talk to and I respected what they had to say. And Miss Nikki and Miss Gilda were like my Grandmothers. They were old school and kept me grounded.”
Charisma recalls the most important thing she received from Covenant House. “In spite of everything, I was in school when I got there. I had a job. My baby was healthy. But I was tired, worn down, sad. What Covenant House gave me was hope and faith that things would be better and that I could survive tough times.”
Charisma would eventually move to our Rights of Passage (ROP) program with Angel. A safe place for her to find balance between work and school as she juggled the responsibilities of motherhood. Sadly, Charisma lost her job right before the holiday season. “It’s tough. Not being able to give Angel everything she deserves. Feeling like I have taken a step backwards. I’m still in school and will start my externship next week. But I want to give Angel the best life possible. And just today I was in the computer lab, looking for work and I started to cry and wanted to give up. But Miss Jantra, one of the ROP staff, was there. She listened, she reminded me of all the things I have done already and that I will get back to where I was and where I want to be. That’s what Covenant House has been for me. Hope when I needed it most.”