Covenant House Alaska has provided shelter services to homeless youth in Anchorage for more than 30 years. Now, they’re opening two new buildings to provide job training and longer-term housing.
After a year of construction, Friday marked the opening of Covey Lofts and Covey Academy. The two buildings sit on either side of the Covenant House downtown.
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The idea is to give the young people they serve more independence while keeping them connected to services, said CEO Alison Kear.
“During the pandemic, we realized that congregate setting was not the safest space for young people, nor did it give them independence,” she said. “But we also realized that some people needed family and community around them so that their independence could be supported.”
Covey Lofts is a four-story building with 22 apartment units. Starting in fall, they’ll be open to anyone from the Covenant House shelter aged 18 to 25 in need of long-term housing. Each room has a full size bed, a TV, a microwave and an in-unit bathroom. The building will be staffed 24/7 by Covenant House employees.
Cook Inlet Housing partnered with Covenant House to build the lofts. Residents will still have access to meals at the shelter and the other services Covenant House provides.
Next door, Covey Academy offers vocational training in a variety of industries. There’s an industrial kitchen where students can prepare for culinary jobs.
“We already have several restaurants in the city that have said, ‘You get them trained up here and we’ll hire them,’ which is really exciting for us,” said chief program officer Heidi Huppert.
There are classrooms where they’ll learn about writing resumes and cover letters. There are conference rooms where students can have interviews or meet with elders. And there are high-tech simulators that let students try out driving big rigs or operating heavy equipment.
“Our young people can get their first taste of what that might be like,” Huppert said. “If they really get into operating a crane or a CAT, this is an opportunity to continue their education and send them to those classes to get higher certifications.”
Upstairs are 19 housing units similar to the Covey Lofts. Down the hall are a laundry room, a gym, a kitchen and living rooms. The 19 young people who will live in this building will be working on long-term training at Covey Academy.
Covey Academy will be open to vulnerable young people in the community, whether or not they’re living at the Covey Academy or Lofts.
Partner organizations — like the state Department of Labor, the Anchorage School District and Nine Star Education and Employment Services — have offices in the building. Kevin Ryan, president of Covenant House International, said the project is the result of a city- and state-wide collaboration.
“This all came about because there is a big movement of people in this community who want to make sure no kid is on the streets alone,” he said. “This is a public-private partnership that brings together folks from the business community, from civic associations, from government, to help young people build the scaffolding of their lives so they can sustainably overcome homelessness.”
Kear said it’s important to remember that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to preventing and addressing youth homelessness. She and other leaders hope these new spaces will provide more opportunities for young people to have a safe, stable and successful future.
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