Partnership Impacts Homeless Youth Services

by Cook Inlet Tribal Council

Cook Inlet Tribal Council (CITC) and Covenant House Alaska (CHA) have joined forces to increase housing in Anchorage for transitional age youth who are at-risk or homeless. The partnership will expand CHA’s Rights of Passage transitional living program through CITC’s Dena’ina House, a newly renovated residential facility at 750 W. Fifth Avenue in Anchorage.

A special open-house event was held on Friday, Sept. 23, celebrating the partnership and the expansion, which will double the program’s current impact.

Through a $2.4 million renovation, the Dena’ina House offers supportive housing for young people seeking independent living through the Rights of Passage program serving homeless youth ages 18-21. The model requires participants to work with a case manager to craft a “success plan” and participants are required to hold jobs, pay rent, save money, learn to budget and develop other life skills needed for living independently.

Covenant House Alaska provides refuge, services and support to homeless youth. During the past three years, the organization has seen an uptick of 58 percent in its average daily census. Covenant House has also experienced an increase in the number of homeless teens migrating from rural Alaska, nearly all being Alaska Native.

With a mission to equip Alaska Native people, especially youth, with the tools needed to reach their potential and self-determination, CITC recognized an opportunity to partner with Covenant House and expand the successful Rights of Passage program, where half of the program’s young people are Alaska Native.

“We didn’t need to reinvent the wheel to support our homeless youth,” explained CITC President and CEO Gloria O’Neill. “We knew by joining forces with Covenant House, we could use CITC staff and expertise to bring the strength of Alaska Native values and culture to help create a larger and more sustainable program.”

The Rights of Passage program has proven success—80 percent of its graduates achieve employment and stable housing. The program has been at full capacity since it started.

“Through our partnership with CITC, we’re here to end homelessness for every young person who walks through our doors,” said Alison Kear, Executive Director of CHA. “Our residents get jobs, they get diplomas and then they get to give back to the community as independent and productive young adults.”

A 10-year operating agreement between the organizations has increased the program’s capacity from 14 to 32 beds at two residences. The program will also benefit from close cooperation with CITC’s existing Youth Education and Employment Services, which will provide additional support and culturally consistent services for Alaska Native youth in the program.

CITC is a tribal non-profit organization offering opportunities to Alaska Native and American Indian people residing in the Cook Inlet region. CITC is an innovative leader in the social services arena, helping program participants pursue opportunities to develop their personal potential and self-reliance.

Covenant House Alaska is the state’s largest shelter for homeless, abused and neglected youth. It provides a safe refuge, warm meals, and medical, counseling, education and employment services. Since 1988, CHA has served over 20,000 homeless youth in Alaska with absolute respect and unconditional love.

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