One of our young people, Natalie, came to us about 18 months ago. She had lived with her mother surrounded by relatives, but, within a few months, her great-grandmother, grandmother, and uncle – the only father figure she ever knew – passed away. She was trapped in a relationship with a boyfriend who beat her, and, one day, she and her mother had a fight and her mother threw her out of the house . . . for good.
“February 15, 2013, was the day I found myself crying because I did not know exactly what to do. It was a day I never thought I would see. It was the day that changed my life. It was the day I became homeless.”
Natalie went from friend to friend to friend until she ran out of friends, and she ended up on the street. That's when she came to Covenant House. She stayed at our Crisis Center for a few months, where she broke things off with her boyfriend – and, after he showed up looking for her, got a restraining order against him with our help. She found a job, saved money and moved to Rights of Passage.
While she was homeless, and the whole time she was with us, she stayed in high school. Just like any family, we had a party to celebrate her graduation in June. And just like any family, we packed her up and moved her into her college dorm room this fall.
In her college application essay, Natalie wrote about the stigma of being homeless. She said:
"I thought everyone would look down on me but the Covenant House showed me kindness and made me believe in myself. . . . I finally had people genuinely pushing me to do better and for me to expect more from myself. Covenant House affirmed me and made me feel proud of my achievements. Living at the Covenant House gave me something to live for."
She also recognizes that she wouldn't be the person she is now if she hadn't had these experiences.
"Sometimes I am thankful for becoming homeless; had I not, I do not know where I would be today. I will never let my past determine my future, because even though my tunnel seemed pitch black, I found the light and I know that the light will always be at the end of the tunnel."