“At 17 years old, I was living on Skid Row with no plan, no future and no hope.” Derrick recently shared as he shook his head in disbelief, “I’m so grateful that time in my life feels like a distant memory.” Derrick heard about the Cov in June 2015 from a friend that lived here and decided to take her advice and walked through our doors the next day. Derrick had no idea what to expect but knew that there had to be more to life. Once Derrick moved in, he immediately got started in the Career Center by taking our job preparation course, where he learned how to look for a job, create his first resume and participate in mock interviews. Having never had a job before, Derrick and CHC staff thought an on-site internship would be a great place for him to learn some practical skills. After interviewing for the position, Derrick was thrilled to learn that he was selected to be an intern with our maintenance team, “Jose taught me so much more than how to just clean and fix things. He taught me to have confidence in myself. Every day, he made me feel really great!” Derrick shared.
After successfully completing his internship at CHC, Derrick applies for an off-site internship at Smart-n-Final. And he got it! While at Smart-n-Final, Derrick told us he learned. “It’s easy to make employers happy when you do what they ask, be polite, be honest, always be proactive, and own your mistakes.”
Even more impressive, is that while Derrick was working hard on his employment goals, he enrolled in CHC’s on-site charter school! Now employed full-time as a veterinary assistant, for two years, Derrick has also been consistent with his studies and is working hard towards getting his high school diploma. When asked about what his goals are for the future, Derrick shared, “I want to finish high school, be a college graduate, become a PE teacher, and have my own place with a family. I came from absolutely nothing just two years ago, and now I have everything. I might not be where I want to be just yet, but with the help of God and the Cov … I’m on my why!”
Looking back on it now, Gia thinks it was inevitable that she would wind up homeless at a young age. Her mother took off when she was a toddler. Her father worked long hours, but barely earned enough for rent. “I felt kind of neglected and started rebelling,” Gia recalled. “My dad was always at work, we never had any money, and I just did not want to be at home.”
In seventh grade, she began running away and hanging out with gang members for months at a time. “It was such a rush,” she said. But eventually, a stint in juvenile hall became Gia’s wakeup call. “Emotionally, I began feeling the pain,” she said. “My conscience was telling me ‘You can do better than this. It’s not right, hurting other people.’ I was mad at the world.”
Today, at 24, she’s working two jobs—perhaps most remarkable of all—has moved into her own apartment in Hollywood. In a region where thousands of young people are homeless on any given night, Gia can be considered a symbol of all that can go right. She is one of 257 young people who were moved off the streets through an ambitious campaign by Los Angeles County and its non-profit partners to house 100 homeless youths in 100 days.
Gia owes her good fortune to Covenant House. She spent a month in the CHC shelter, then moved to a transitional living program that offers therapy, education and job training. Her story is a bright light in a county with more than 6,000 homeless teens and young adults and a perpetual shortage of shelter beds.
Rafael Robledo, Staff
“Seeing the smiles on our youth’s faces when I take them on an outing to the beach, or when they perform a song, maybe for their first time, and forget in that moment what they’ve been through,” Rafael Robledo, CHC’s Activities Coordinator, shared, “It’s the very best part of my job.” For youth, these activities teach healthy methods of expressing feelings – something that is commonly lost on the streets.
The most interesting office on campus –filled with flags, figurines, and art supplies -belongs to Rafael. Always within his eyeshot, though, on his desk, is a rock. The rock serves as a reminder of why he continues to champion homeless youth. “A few years ago, I took a group on an outing to Malibu. Just as we were getting ready to leave, a youth told me that he had never been to the beach in his life, “ says Rafael. The youth shared, “Rafael, I am giving you this rock with holes in it to remember me by, and to thank you for bringing me to the beach. This rock is like my heart -full of holes.”
Years later, that youth returned to visit Rafael and asked if he remembered that day. And with a big smile, Rafael Pointed to the rock on his desk.
Nikki Sixx, Donor
In 2007, Nikki Sixx released his NY Times bestselling memoir, The Heroin Diaries chronicling his worst year of addiction in the mid-80’s during which he overdosed, was clinically dead for several minutes and which ultimately lead to his path of recovery. Today, Nikki has been sober for 17 years.
Coinciding with the release of the Heroin Diaries in 2007, Nikki partnered with Covenant House California, Los Angeles to pay forward his good fortune and create a music room for the homeless youth finding shelter at the Covenant House campus. The music program that’s been put into place as a result has been Covenant House’s most successful and popular program amongst its residents to date.
In October 2017, Nikki proudly presented his first ever photography exhibition in partnership with Leica Camera. He has often called photography “his new drug that has replaced addiction in his life and helped keep him sober”. Nikki once again partnered with Covenant House to raise money to create a Photography Room and program to benefit the residents of Covenant House California, Los Angeles and expand the creative endeavors of the organization. Nikki shared, “Looking forward to expanding the music program we have here to other locations and building another program to inspire these beautiful kids to express themselves creatively.”