NEW ORLEANS – No child should have to spend the holidays on the street and the Covenant House is making sure local at-risk youth not only have a warm bed for Christmas, but also where they feel welcome.
The Covenant House is a refuge for the homeless and at-risk youth. This week is not only Christmas, but also a big anniversary for the inn.
“We opened our doors thirty years and one week ago on December 17 and in that first 24 hours we took in 24 kids. Now tonight, we will have about 162 young people,” founder Jim Kelly said.
Even though it is a special anniversary, Christmas is always fruitful at the Covenant House thanks to what Kelly calls “the generosity of strangers.”
On top of warm meals and fun festivities, each person received a bag full of Christmas goodies.
Victoria Belozerows is 17 years old and has been staying at the house for about three weeks.
“They gave me a work out outfit, they gave me a lot of blankets that are really soft. They gave me jackets. I got some hats. I'm just really grateful for all the stuff they gave me," Belozerows said.
Arione Floyd and her son Chaz have been at Covenant House for about a month. Chaz will turn one in two days. While they are happy with the gifts, it is not the material things they are most thankful for.
"His first Christmas is really better than I thought it would because I'm not sleeping outside," Floyd said.
And Kelly said a Christmas miracle happened this year.
"A young 19-year-old dancer from Bourbon Street comes in, who we had tried to work with in the past and says, “I want help.” We get on the phone with her mother; her mother is overjoyed. We took her to the airport at 4 this morning, she got on a flight at 5:20 this morning,” Kelly said.
Each tenant at the Covenant House is there because they do not have anywhere else to go for the holidays.
“Yes, I'm trying to bring joy into their life, but what's the most important thing is that they know that we care about them and love them and together we are going to get through this,” Kelly said.