Covenant House (2004)
Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits; who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. Psalm 103:1-5
To Alisa Porter and George Anderson, Covenant House's Director of Development and Acting Executive Director, respectively, each teenager or young adult who walks through their doors is in desperate need of renewal, love, compassion, redemption, and health. They and their staff work tirelessly to treat the youths who seek Covenant House's assistance with respect and unconditional love. They feel called to support and encourage the suffering children of the streets, and they carry their work with a striking sense of duty.
On Tuesday, December 7th, City Lights visited Covenant House, a refuge for street kids and runaways located in the Polar Rock Community of Atlanta's Lakewood district. After a brief introduction by Andrew Kintz, Alisa Porter and George Anderson took the floor. Covenant House is the largest privately-funded childcare agency in the United States, providing shelter and service to homeless and runaway youth. It was incorporated in New York City in 1972 and has since expanded in the United States to Anchorage, Atlanta, Atlantic City, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Los Angeles, Newark, New Orleans, Oakland, Orlando, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Washington, D. C., and, outside the United States, to Toronto, Vancouver, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Nicaragua.
At the beginning of the City Lights meeting, Alisa and George showed the group a moving video documenting a few of the youths whose lives have been changed by Covenant House. The young adults, whose lives have been fragmented by neglect, abuse, and a sometimes unfeeling foster care system, spoke of the love they received from the volunteers and staff at Covenant, and the hope that they now have as a result of their time there. Covenant House/Georgia is a fairly new venture. The national headquarters in New York approved Atlanta as a city in need of Covenant's services in the spring of 2000, and the group's community service center, located in Little Five Points on Broad Street, opened its doors on August 7th, 2000. Since then, Covenant House has outgrown that center. Although they will keep that location because of the teens they continue to help there, the group has turned its current focus to the expansion of their Lakewood location. With plans for the Polar Rock facility to serve as their Atlanta hub, Covenant House/Georgia will build dormitories, showers, training facilities, and childcare units onto their already sprawling Lakewood location.
Once a dilapidated warehouse, the newly renovated Covenant House building stands as a beacon and a refuge in the Polar Rock community. It's brightly colored walls and well-appointed facilities, the recently donated board room alone is elegant enough to make the most successful business-person envious, make for an environment that is both welcoming and professional. The additions to this building, for which they aim to finish by 2006, will allow Covenant House to offer medical services, substance abuse programming, child care, pastoral counseling, and mental health services, in addition to a 40-bed Crisis Shelter which will serve as a safe haven for homeless and at-risk youth.
Alisa and George exude a "whatever it takes" spirit about the tasks before them. Whether raising money for their $4.34 million capital campaign or counseling a downtrodden child desperately in need of hope and affection, they and their staff have a common goal: to safeguard all children and serve as a tangible, visible of the presence of God. Alisa recounted several moving examples of how children come to live on the streets. One boy was kicked out of his mother's house because he was not able to pay her any rent. A girl, who sought shelter at her boyfriend's parents' house, was sexually abused by his family members. Another teen, faced with unbearable issues of drug and alcohol abuse at home, worked at McDonald's to busy himself and spend as much time away from the house as possible. Thanks to the efforts of Alisa Porter and George Anderson and the rest of their caring staff at Covenant House, stories like these will have happy endings, with teens who are empowered to break the cycle of drug and alcohol abuse, sexual exploitation, and desperation. Covenant House currently sponsors a job-readiness and life skills program, GED classes, parenting workshops, and job placement. The Outreach Program consists of a trained staff that drives the streets of Atlanta from 4pm to 8am, extending food, clothing, and information about Covenant House's services to teens they encounter.
Many thanks go to Alisa Porter and George Anderson who so graciously hosted us at Covenant House's Lakewood location and provided the coffee! The delicious muffins our group enjoyed came fresh from the ovens of Full Cup Coffee House (www.fullcup.org), another wonderful City Lights ministry.
To learn more about how you might be able to help Covenant House (www.covenanthouse.org), please call the City Lights office at 404.842.7878 OR call Alisa Porter at 404.589.0163. Please join us in prayer for Covenant House?s upcoming building project and for the teenagers and young adults they support.
- 24/7 Gateway (2005)
- AMEN, Inc. (2005)
- Atlanta American Red Cross (2005)
- Atlanta Community Food Bank (2006)
- Atlanta Development Authority (2005)
- Atlanta Housing (2006)
- Atlanta Intercultural Ministries (2005)
- Atlanta Mission (2011)
- Atlanta Youth Academy (2007)
- Beltline & Proposed Westside Park (2011)
- Buckhead Christian Ministry (2006)
- Carver Bible College (2006)
- Carver YMCA (2009)
- Charis Community Housing (2012)
- Childspring (2007)
- City of Refuge
- Communitites in Schools (2005, 2007,2011)
- Covenant House (2004)
- Create Your Dreams (2005)
- David Allman and Friends (2004)
- Families First (2006)
- FCS Urban Ministries
- Frazer Center (2012)
- Georgia Student Leadership Forum
- Good Samaritan Health Center (2005)
- How People Grow (2012)
- Jars of Clay Outreach (2006)
- Justice (2012)
- The Leaders Lyceum
- Life Lessons (2006)
- Mary Mac's (2009)
- MedShare International (2004)
- SafeHouse Outreach (2005)
- Sears Building Becoming Ponce City Market (2012)
- Theatrical Outfit (2011)