Anchorage’s Covenant House receives $1M federal grant to help foster youth before they age out

Sean Gaither, director of housing at Covenant House, shows Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Administration for Children and Families Jeff Hild where homeless youth are able to get clothing. (Wesley Early/Alaska Public Media)

Anchorage youth homeless service provider Covenant House is receiving a $1 million federal grant aimed at supporting young Alaskans as they age out of the foster care system. 

Jeff Hild is principal deputy assistant secretary for the federal Administration for Children and Families. He announced the funding during a tour of Covenant House on Wednesday.

“You guys are one of 11 around the country that’s part of this demonstration project,” Hild said. “And so, as you heard, the goal is to get the intervention upstream before a young person is in crisis.”

Exact figures for the number of homeless youth in Anchorage are spotty, though Covenant House officials say the total is in the thousands. Last year, the organization had 957 young people use its services. More than half of them were Alaska Native. 

Covenant House chief program officer Heidi Huppert. (Wesley Early/Alaska Public Media)

Heidi Huppert, chief program officer with Covenant House, said the federal funding will be used to help assist children before they age out of the foster care system at 18. 

“Young people that are on that cusp of transitioning out — maybe six months or a year before they’re out of that care — and provide that extra level of support,” Huppert said. “Because we know a lot of them end up with us after a year anyway.”

Covenant House began as a youth homeless shelter more than 30 years ago, but has now expanded into temporary and full-time housing with focuses on youth job training as well.

The federal grant will be dispersed over a three-year pilot period. Huppert said some of the money will go toward hiring two staff members to help the young people navigate the program, but most of it will go directly to the youth. 

“The rest of the money is going to be direct cash assistance, and then all the other [things] like transportation, picking young people up, you know, those kinds of costs,” Huppert said.

Hild said this is the first-ever federal program aimed at giving direct cash assistance to young people who are homeless or using homeless services, which he said helps to eliminate barriers to resources that sometimes occur through other voucher programs. 

He said he hopes to present the findings of the 11 pilot programs to Congress after three years to help facilitate more funding for homeless youth nationwide.

Wesley Early covers Anchorage life and city politics for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at and follow him on X at @wesley_early. Read more about Wesley here.

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