Gordon came to us in the Fall of 2014.
Gordon and his mother had been homeless. They were living pillar to post. They had never gotten back on their feet after Katrina. He was ten years old when they were rescued from rising flood waters.
Due to her cancer, his mother was able to find a place to stay. Gordon, however, was not allowed to join her. He was suddenly on his own. He was homeless, yet again. Soon came the fear. How was he going to make it on his own? He had no job. No money. No roof over his head. He was scared, really scared. What kid wouldn’t be?
Ultimately came the anger. Life wasn’t fair. Why him?
Gordon hitchhiked to New Orleans. Then he made some very bad choices: petty crime and dealing drugs. He is a good kid. He was just in a “bad place” without any guidance or support. He was trying to survive.
Thankfully someone told Gordon about Covenant House. “It’s a place for runaway and homeless teenagers. They can help you turn your life around.”
Within six months, he was thriving. Our team had done a great job of providing plenty of supportive counseling, and slowly Gordon came into his own.
Gordon got a job working for White Dove Landscaping, our job readiness and training program, and he loved it. We cut lawns, clear lots, and landscape small residential and commercial properties. Approximately six to nine youth trainees are employed at a time. The first lesson our kids learn is to show up – on time – each day.
We teach our White Dove crew a host of life skills and business skills (“Wear a clean shirt every day.” “The customer is always right.” “Yes ma’am, yes sir.”). They learn about the equipment: how to operate and repair. They learn about the different kinds of grasses, plants and shrubs. They learn how to use technology: to take before and after pictures of their assigned lots, and to electronically match the pictures with the invoices.
Financial literacy is another educational element of the program. Each resident trainee is strongly encouraged to save 80% of their paycheck. They’ll need the funds for school or to obtain an apartment in the future.
Ultimately our youth learn to put the past behind them and to become responsible young adults.
Sounds so simple. Young men and women like Gordon, however, have had to overcome innumerable hurdles. Did they grow up in a physically and/or sexually abusive home? Where’s their father? Does their mother deal drugs, or suffer from mental illness? Were they ever in foster care? Were they ever trafficked? Had they run away from home – or been thrown out?
How did they survive on the street for weeks and months before knocking on our door for help?
Gordon was an A+ landscape trainee. He enjoys working – and working long hours.
“What about the summertime and the heat?” I asked.
“Doesn’t bother me. I like working outside. Someday, I want to start my own landscaping business. I am going to call it Black Dove.”
As I started laughing, a big sheepish grin came across Gordon’s face. “You like the name?” Gordon
“So White Dove is going to have some competition in a couple years,” I said. We both chuckled.
Gordon hasn’t started his own landscaping business yet – but he’s on his way. Today, Gordon is working hard at another landscaping company and working evenings at a second job to save up money. He has reunited with family and now lives with his aunt. We are so proud of him and and can’t wait to see where his hard work takes him!