Covenant House is a non-governmental, international organization that serves teenage and adolescent runaway homeless and trafficked youth. They have the only five beds in the entire city of Philadelphia that is specifically targeted for teenage and adolescent mothers and babies.
“One of the reasons some young kids would be kicked out of their home is very often a young mother who’s pregnant, has a baby,” said John A. Ducoff, executive director of Covenant House, located in Germantown. “So imagine, an 18-year-old with a 1-year-old, living on the street. These are many of our kids. For these young people, they need not only a safe place for themselves, but they need a safe place for their babies.”
Young mothers at Covenant House are in the Mom and Babes program, where they are taught parenting skills, given a place to stay, a place to eat and are provided with all the baby’s necessities.
“They face a lot of barriers just finding housing, so we focus a lot on housing applications and what programs they are eligible for as moms with kids,” said Aimee Della-Porta, social worker at Covenant House. “They have to negotiate their relationship with the child’s father, family relationships, finding daycares, trying to work amidst all of that so that they can earn more money to become self sufficient on their own.”
The young mothers at Covenant House apply for housing through the city’s Office of Supportive Housing, which is Philadelphia’s transitional housing system. Once an application is submitted, it needs to be reviewed and then you are referred to a program. But many of these programs have waitlists. People can be waiting for up to six months or longer for housing.
According to Covenant House’s site, every year, more than 2 million children in America will face a period of homelessness. Almost 40 percent of the homeless population in the United States of America is under 18.
“It’s hard being a young mom, because you know school, work,” said Germantown resident Nafeesha Shard. “It’s hard to multitask when you have a little one that you have to care for. Listen, I don’t dislike being a young mom, but if I could’ve waited, I would’ve. It’s just hard.”
– Photos, video and text by Rose Daraz.