This is my second Christmas at Covenant House. I have seen how many of the youth begin to get anxious as the holidays get closer. I had one particular young man who was quite unsure of where he wanted to spend Christmas, as his original plans had fallen through. He was not sure if he wanted to stay at Covenant House or request an overnight stay with a family member that lived in a nearby city. So as we chatted throughout the evening eventually leading up to decision time. We brain stormed what Christmas would look like in both going to a family members home or staying here at Covenant House.
This young man was very worried about his interaction with his father and how that would play out. But he was quite excited about the possibility of spending Christmas with his grandmother. The week before Christmas this young man approached me and stated that he had decided to go to his grandma’s place for dinner. He said to me, “If I get to uncomfortable I can just return to the shelter, right? I don’t have to stay there overnight.” I told the youth, yes, once the overnight had been approved, if he felt threatened, unsafe, and or uncomfortable, he could return to the Shelter at any time.
I was off until Boxing Day night, and when I came on shift I saw this young man, he smiled and waved, so I went out to the common area and had brief conversation with him. He proceeded to tell me he was so happy that he had gone to his grandma’s place for Christmas, and he stated that it was very reassuring to him that he had the safety net of returning to Covenant House if he felt unsure of staying. He thanked me for helping him decide whether to go or not. I told this young man that all I did was provide him with the tools to make the decision himself based on his own comfort level and his ability to make wise, healthy choices for himself. As I walked away I realized that for many of the youth that reside here at Covenant House, not only do we provide them with food, a warm bed, someone to listen to them, but for many we are a safety net.