The Covenant House Partnership

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Knowing both the burden of housing costs and the challenges of youth coming from poverty, Covenant House New Orleans has established a practice of working closely with a small pool of landlords to place at-risk youth in decent, affordable housing and then ease them into full rent payments while they receive continued career, physical health, and mental health support. NOAHH is very excited to announce our participation in this practice through a pilot rental program.

According to a recent report from The Data Center, 39% of New Orleans children live in poverty, a rate 17% higher than the national average. The report finds that children raised in poverty are “much more likely to experience exposure to violence, chronic neglect, and the accumulated burdens of economic hardship,” and that this early exposure to chronic stress can lead to “lifelong difficulties in learning, memory, and self-regulation.”

Imagine a young adult raised in such an environment, but ready to take her life in a new, positive direction. She faces the prospect of living independently in the wake of this trauma and without the wisdom, as well as the emotional and financial support, of a stable family unit—no help with rent when money’s tight, no one to give advice about budgeting for the unexpected, or to provide guidance on how to interact with a landlord. Now imagine this young woman searching for housing in New Orleans, a city where, as of 2013, 51% of renters and 27% of homeowners paid unaffordable housing costs. This can be a recipe for failure, and all too often the combination of no support network and a limited stock of affordable housing leads to homelessness for at-risk youth.

“Jim Pate had a desire to make sure Habitat was providing housing to all low-income and vulnerable families and residents of the city. He has a real heart for troubled youth. He saw this as a great opportunity for us to partner on providing safe, decent housing for young men and women of New Orleans,” said Jim Kelly, Executive Director of Covenant House. “I have been blessed over the years to partner with NOAHH in housing ministry. They have always been wonderful supporters, and hopefully, I’ve been able to equally applaud their efforts in our post-Katrina world.”

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In this partnership NOAHH staff and volunteers will construct a series of duplexes. Each duplex will house a non-Covenant tenant in one side and a Covenant House youth in the other side, with NOAHH acting as landlord in both instances. This setup will provide opportunities for the Covenant resident to build positive relationships with and learn from those around her. This tenant will be integrated into a community while receiving ongoing support from Covenant House. For these residents this housing will serve as a stepping stone on the path to independence and stability.

In addition to this support, residents who are interested in becoming homeowners will have the opportunity to become a part of NOAHH’s incubator program. Within this program NOAHH’s Family Services works closely with prospective homeowners on improving credit and setting aside savings so that they are in a position to become Habitat partner families.

“It’s inspiring to work with Covenant House,” said Jim Pate. “We’re honored to be partnering with such an amazing group to help them expand their already considerable impact.”

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