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Homeless Youth Get a Fresh Start with the Help of Technology

Mobile device charging station part of a life-altering makeover at Covenant House shelter in Los Angeles

The homeless teens and young adults who come to Covenant House California are hoping for a fresh start in life. To help them gain independence and put them on a path to success, Covenant House gives them food, shelter, clothing, education, and emotional support. And thanks to a recent makeover by Oprah Winfrey, homeless youth served by the Los Angeles branch now have access to a state-of-the-art to keep their phones and other devices fully charged and secure so they can complete schoolwork, look for a job, or even just stay in touch with family and friends.

Covenant House California is a nonprofit youth homeless shelter that helps more than 1,800 homeless and trafficked youth per year between the ages of 18 and 24. In 2004, Oprah invited Alex Molina, who was living at Covenant House in Los Angeles at the time, on her show and gave her a college scholarship. Today, Molina works as a case manager for the shelter. During a recent email exchange, she mentioned to Oprah that the 21-year-old facility was beginning to show its age—and Oprah graciously offered to help.

At first, Molina simply asked for new mattresses. The youth living at the shelter were sleeping on the same mattresses that Molina had slept on several years earlier. But Oprah realized the shelter needed so much more.

To renovate the space, she brought in professional designer Jeremiah Brent, who lives just three miles from Covenant House Los Angeles and was homeless himself for nearly a year when he first moved to the city. Brent came up with a design that would give the shelter’s residents a sense of pride and self-worth as they sought to make a new life for themselves.

For instance, the original lobby was dark and dingy, with old carpeting and furniture that was not inviting. The newly renovated space has light-toned wood flooring, brand-new lighting, and modern furniture—creating a comfortable space for hanging out and working. “It shift(s) the whole vibe,” Brent said.

Because technology is essential for completing schoolwork and finding a job, Brent also equipped the space with a FUYL Tower from LocknCharge. The mobile device charging station has separate, secure compartments for keeping up to 15 phones, tablets, and laptops fully charged and secure.

Each individually lockable compartment is equipped with a power outlet and a 2.4 amp USB port, so Covenant House residents can securely store and charge almost any device they might own—including iPads, tablets, laptops, Chromebooks, and mobile phones. What’s more, the mobile device charging station’s innovative management software allows Covenant House administrators to remotely open any compartment door, deny access to a reserved locker, receive alerts of abnormal usage, and download a full audit log.

“Covenant House California recognized the importance of providing the appropriate space and tools for youth to leverage technology,” said James Symons, CEO of LocknCharge. “We are grateful to play a small part in the tremendous work that Covenant House California does to level the playing field for young people of all backgrounds.”

High-speed wireless internet access is available in the lobby and throughout the shelter. “You come into this internet café that was just a receiving lobby before,” Brent said. “The idea is that the second you walk through the door, you shift the possibilities. Kids start to think, OK, (success) is possible. I am seen. I am heard. There are people who care.”

The shelter’s newly renovated bedrooms include fresh linens and beds, new window treatments, bedside lamps, and even desks and chairs so the residents have a comfortable place to work in their rooms. “When I lived here, I didn’t have a workspace, so I did my homework on my nasty bed,” said Molina.

The renovations also included new washers and dryers and a modern-looking common room. What used to look very much like an institution has been transformed into an inviting space that gives kids a sense of purpose. “This looks like a home,” Molina noted.

Both Covenant House administrators and the youth who live there say the renovations have made a big impact in moving their lives forward.

“We are so unbelievably grateful for your life-changing gift,” one administrator said. “I have already seen a huge change in our young people.” Another stated: “Our youth are so proud of where they live, and now they can continue to try to move their lives forward.”

One resident of the shelter said the renovations have “improved my life tenfold,” while another simply said: “I feel so much better about myself as a person

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