Formerly Unhoused Teen Is Now Paying It Forward And Helping Other Underserved Youth In New York City


November 23, 2021

She’s being the change she needs to see in the world!

A formerly homeless New York teen is now paying it forward by helping other underserved youth, Good Morning America (GMA) reports. 

At just 18-years-old, Naketa Younge found herself unhoused with only $130 to her name. A friend of hers told her about Covenant House New York, a nonprofit aimed at supporting youth who are experiencing homelessness. There, she was offered shelter and resources that really helped her rebuild her life and she credits the organization as a saving grace.


“It was a very low point for me. It was a transitional time where I didn’t know which way to go…One of the most important things they asked was like, ‘Do you have anywhere to go?’ And once I was like, ‘Honestly, no.’ They was like, ‘Well, that’s the first step. You have somewhere to be now,’” Younge recalled. 

The organization supports youth ages 16 to 24, providing 24/7 wrap-around services including mental health counseling, medical services and food to those in need. Covenant House was founded in New York City in 1972 and to date has locations in 31 cities and six countries, supporting youth around the globe on the road to independence. 

“Being at that pivotal age, it’s hard, you know, because you’re not a kid anymore, but you’re not fully an adult. It’s a good place to start to build a firm ground and foundation for yourself,” Younge said. 


Thanks to the support of Covenant House, Younge was able to go off to college, pursuing her dreams and earning a masters in mental health counseling from Long Island University. Now, at 30-years-old, she’s paying it forward, lending her help to support underserved youth. 

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help. People are here to help you. Nobody could do it on their own. No one. And that’s all you need to remember because all it takes is just asking for help,” Younge said. 


This month, Covenant House New York opened a new building welcoming 120 young people home, the first time in the organization’s nearly 50-year-history that something has been built with the residents in mind. 

“We have a federally qualified health center on the first floor, we have mental health [services] on the fourth floor…We try to wrap everything around here that they could possibly need, to help them to get stable in their lives so that they can go out and live a good, rich life,” Sister Nancy Downing, executive director of Covenant House New York, said. 

On November 18th, the organization held its annual Sleep Out event, to raise awareness and funds for unhoused youth. The event took place virtually and across 17 various Covenant House locations. 


What Younge now realizes is how grateful she is for everything she experienced and how thankful she is to Covenant House for helping her during that transitional period. She strives to do the same for others now. 

“Sometimes when you look at something that may be like, the worst time in your life…You look back now and it was, like, that actually ended up being the best part,” Younge said. 

Photo Courtesy of Elena George/ABC News


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