AAHOA’s partnership with Covenant House California to serve, protect, and equip the unhoused
As AAHOA Members congregate in Los Angeles this month for AAHOACON23, it will be impossible to ignore the many encampments of unhoused individuals throughout the city and Southern California as a whole. With AAHOACON23 projected to bring approximately 8,000 people to LA, it’s a perfect opportunity to harness the power of such a massive group to leave a positive impact on the area and help in the fight to serve, protect, and equip SoCal’s unhoused population with the resources they need to get them out of unsafe situations and open the door to employment opportunities.
So, during AAHOACON23, AAHOA will be raising funds for Covenant House California (CHC), with proceeds going to benefit the organization. Attendees, please help us positively impact CHC’s efforts, and, if you aren’t planning to attend AAHAOCON23, you can still donate online. Or, you can volunteer at your local shelter. Let’s do this together.
To give AAHOA Members a better idea of what CHC is, what the organization does, and how they can help, CHC Chief Development Officer Amanda Sattler gave us a big-picture overview. Read on to learn more.
CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT COVENANT HOUSE CALIFORNIA’S MISSION AND WHY THERE’S SUCH AN URGENT NEED TO PROVIDE RESOURCES FOR THE UNHOUSED?
Amanda Sattler: One-third of the nation’s unhoused youth live in California – a shocking statistic considering California accounts for only 12% of the U.S. population. Nearly 12,000 young people experience houselessness on any given night in California.
Covenant House California (CHC) provides shelter and supportive services for unhoused young people, tackling homelessness in youth and young adulthood, when hope and possibility are still strong. We believe that no young person deserves to be unhoused; that every young person in California deserves shelter, food, clothing, education, and – most importantly – to be loved. CHC provides a full continuum of services to meet the physical, emotional, educational, vocational, and spiritual well-being of young people to provide them with the best chance for success in independence.
WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON CHALLENGES FACED BY THE UNHOUSED, SPECIFICALLY IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, AND ACROSS THE COUNTRY IN GENERAL?
AS: Many young people who are unhoused lack a welcoming and safe family. We work to be that vital support system for them. Because of this, we not only engage youth with a strong, supportive community while they’re staying with us, but continue to reach out to support our alumni after they move into independence.
Another challenge is food insecurity and hunger. In 2022, we provided nearly 400,000 healthy meals for unhoused youth, joining in the important work of shelters, food banks, and nonprofits across the state in addressing this huge need.
While Southern California is famous for its sunny, warm weather, the intense rainstorms and cold of the winter months can be devastating for the unsheltered community. There is only one shelter bed for every five unhoused youth in California, reflecting the urgent need to expand our state’s shelter capacity.
Finally, people experiencing houselessness, especially adolescents and young adults, are extremely vulnerable to exploitation such as human trafficking. We work to not only safeguard youth from these dangers, but also help them heal from the trauma of experiencing them.
HOW DOES CHC’S WORK AFFECT THE FIGHT AGAINST HUMAN TRAFFICKING?
AS: Of the youth Covenant House California serves, one in four young people share that they have been trafficked while they weren’t safely housed.
As a provider of shelter, services, and support for formerly unhoused youth, a critical part of our work is helping youth work through the traumatic events they may have experienced, including trafficking. To do this, we first work to build trust with our young people and ensure their basic needs are taken care of, offering personalized care tailored to the needs of youth who have experienced exploitation. We then help support, mentor, and encourage them as they embark on the difficult, important path to healing. Through onsite medical and mental health care, individual and group therapy, innovative programming and workshops, and much more, we help youth achieve their goals and dreams, moving forward on their journey to stability and success.
We also advocate for policies and systemic changes that address the needs of unhoused and trafficked youth.
ASIDE FROM SUPPORTING ORGANIZATIONS SUCH AS CHC FINANCIALLY, WHAT CAN HOTELIERS DO TO PROVIDE RESOURCES FOR THE UNHOUSED?
AS: In addition to financial donations, you can support this work by volunteering your time! We have many volunteer opportunities every month at our shelters in Anaheim, Los Angeles, Oakland, and Santa Clara, and so do our fellow shelters and service providers statewide.
We always welcome donations of food, gift cards, new clothing, and any surplus new linens, housekeeping supplies, and hygiene items.
Another key element of our work is helping unhoused individuals enter careers with the potential for professional growth and increased earnings. Helping provide referrals to fulfilling careers for formerly unhoused individuals can make a major difference in their lives.
Lastly, it’s vital that we work together to build awareness about the unacceptable burden of houselessness and human trafficking experienced by young Californians. Youth homelessness is also an equity issue: Black and brown youth, LGBTQ youth, and systems-impacted youth – former foster care residents and formerly incarcerated youth – all experience very disproportionate rates of houselessness. We must speak up and spread the word to get more of our community involved in the fight to ensure all young people have a safe place to sleep at night.