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St. Louis homeless youth facility feels impact of coronavirus pandemic

"Our youth are remarkable. They're doing amazing things, including going back to school and getting jobs amid the coronavirus outbreak, said Colleen Daum

ST. LOUIS — It's hard to imagine, but on a chilly night, empty streets or cold, vacant buildings may be the only places homeless teenagers and young adults in the St. Louis area can live.

"A lot of them come from unsafe homes that they just can't be a part of anymore. So, they couch surf, they may sleep in cars or they may just sleep on the floor at a friend's house," explained Colleen Daum, the Director of Advancement at Covenant House Missouri near North Kingshighway and Maffitt in north St. Louis.

And that's why many of the young people turn to Covenant House for help.

For the last 20 years, the agency has assisted homeless people between the ages of 16 and 24 with food, temporary shelter and other needs.

Normally, a potential new client can go to the facility seven days a week, but that has had to change with the coronavirus pandemic.

"We are limiting the number of hours in a day that our community youth can come in and access our programs," said Daum.

"We're meeting them at the gate outside to provide them with meals that they have something to eat or they're needing hygiene items. We're making sure that those needs are still met and encouraging them to come back between 2:00 and 5:00," added Daum.

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Currently, there are 60 staff members at Covenant House Missouri. The folks there also are doing extra cleaning.

"Our staff on the floors are taking on, making sure that they're constantly cleaning their spaces. So, it's nothing really new for us to keep our building clean, we're just going the extra mile," said Daum.

On any given night, it's estimated that there are 600 homeless youth in the St. Louis region. Even amid their coronavirus-related changes, the folks at Covenant House said they will continue doing everything they can to help those young people.

"They helped me get a job when I didn't have one," said a 22-year-old young man who has stayed at Covenant House for nearly a year.

"It's a good program that they have. They have helped so many of us who didn't have anywhere else to turn to when we were struggling and didn't have any assistance from our families. I just want this virus over so they can return to normal" added the young man.

Daum said they're undaunted and she and her staff will remember their motto, "Opening Doors For Homeless Youth".

"And just to be able to help our kids and be a small part of that journey, just keeps you wanting to come back to help more and more youth," said Daum.

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