Covenant House CEO Meagan Dunn Talks Vision for Detroit’s Homeless Youth

In Michigan, over 60,000 individuals experience homelessness, according to the 2019 Ending Homelessness in Michigan Annual Report.

Meagan

Dunn, the new CEO at Detroit-based Covenant House of Michigan, spoke with the Michigan Chronicle about the organization’s long-term commitment toward serving youth struggling with obtaining basic needs in Metro Detroit.

“Youth homelessness often looks different than with adults,” said Dunn. “Young people don’t have as much control over their circumstances and could be without shelter along with the rest of their families. They might be sleeping outside or on a friend’s couch. Sometimes there are disputes with the family where they don’t feel safe, or they are a victim of trafficking. We need to dispel the myth or stereotype that kids are homeless because they did something wrong.”

Before joining Covenant House of Michigan in July, Dunn spent her entire career dedicated to mission-based work. She previously worked at YWCA Kalamazoo, where she was the Vice President of Programs.

Since 1997, Covenant House Michigan has offered trauma-informed services in housing, educational opportunities, and job training to young people facing housing insecurity. Part of a nationwide effort, the organization, provides a bridge to hope for young people by connecting them with emergency shelter and transitional housing, as well as education and job training opportunities.

Every day, the organization deploys a street Outreach team to “homeless hot spots” all over the city to connect with and build trust with struggling youth and offer them room and board. The Caritas Crisis Center is a 45-bed emergency shelter open 24/7, 365 days a year, for youth aged 18 to 24. Youths can stay up to 90 days before they are tactfully moved to a transitional housing situation.

Youth can enroll in any programs available for employment, basic life skills training, and counseling/mentorship.

“We want to catch them now before they become chronically homeless,” said Dunn. “ After a certain age and spending a certain amount of time without a home, then one is designated as chronically homeless. We want to stop that. We want to make sure that when youth come here, they have a safe and stable destination, even after they exit. A lot of them have experienced so many different types of trauma so we are sure to build trust and consistency of care before getting them connected with anything else.”

According to the Fiscal Year 2022 Annual Program Dashboard, the organization has reached 1,768 youths, providing an estimated 24,027 total nights of housing across their residential programs.

In commemoration of November’s Youth Homelessness Month, the organization hosted its annual “Sleep Out: Executive Edition,” inviting team members and donors to give up their beds for one night to raise awareness and meet fundraising needs. This year, the event raised over $300,000 for needed supplies and resources, including new sheets, computers, meals and all-around program care.

“For some of our youth that we’ve provided housing vouchers, unfortunately the policy stipulates they aren’t eligible if they are enrolled in college. So, they must choose between education and stable housing, which is an impossible choice no one should have to make.”

Beyond raising general awareness, Dunn is looking forward to her tenure focusing on expanding the services to reach more youth and also advocating policy reforms to programs that have, unfortunately, become barriers.

“We have had invaluable support from our legislative leaders and community partners,” said Dunn, “which lends us more leverage and power to tell our stories and influence legislation around the affects of homelessness and barriers within the system that still exist.”

 

From the Web

X