During this Lenten season of reflection and with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, we thought it was good timing to profile some of the many great organizations whose actions personify God’s love to New York City.

We spoke to Cathy Englade at Covenant House, a non-profit that opens doors for homeless youth. Read our questions and her answers below:
What is the need you are addressing?
Covenant House shelters homeless and trafficked youth. They come to us trying to escape childhood homes filled with violence, drugs, physical and sexual abuse and neglect. Often these violent and abusive acts create such terrifying environments that the kids flee their families and, ironically, seek safety on the streets of New York. Once on the streets, they are subjected to equal if not worse horrors before they find Covenant House.
How do you make a unique difference (despite such a large issue, and such a large
city)?

We are far more than just a shelter. Our goal for every young person who enters our doors is to empower and encourage them on a path towards healing and breaking the cycle of homelessness. From the moment a young person arrives, they are promised Absolute Respect and Unconditional Love. Having never received either from a parent, respect and love become the sacred cornerstones for their healing. As they heal, we offer a plethora of educational, vocational and therapeutic programs, and every youth is set on a track towards completing their education and achieving economic independence.
Why do you do what you do? What motivates you?
Our kids are some of the brightest, funniest, most creative and clever people I’ve had the privilege to know. However, the tremendous weight of their circumstances, the crippling effects of trauma rob them of their voices and identity. I do what I do because I want these kids to know that this time is but a moment in their lives and that they are so much more than homeless/abused/abandoned/neglected.
What’s the end goal? What are you trying to achieve (specific goals/deadlines, etc.)?
The kids have been asking for classes in music, visual art, dance, acting, writing, etc. They find so much healing and freedom in their creativity. So, I’ve signed on as the Artistic Director and we are at the very beginning of a 5-year plan to design and implement a robust and comprehensive arts program.  By the end of 2016, we will have laid the foundation for a program that will open the doors for the NYC arts community to come engage and empower our kids.
How can others help?
Sometimes at work, when I see the darkness and pain that surrounds these kids, I am reminded of Ezekiel and the Valley of the Dry Bones. And I wonder, can these kids come back to life?  Is there a certain point of brokenness where they can no longer be reached? Is it foolish to keep hoping? It is then that I pray as the song says, “Lord, I want to see dry bones living again.” I hope you will pray the same with me.

For more details on the work of Covenant House, visit their website.