Covenant House Illinois
CHIL’s Street Outreach and Aftercare Program, an interview with Beverly Williams
CHIL’s Street Outreach and Aftercare Program (SOAP) seeks to reach youth experiencing homelessness where they are using multiple means of outreach, such as meeting them directly on the street, through social media, through contact in our Drop-In Center, and through community members and businesses who are likely to be in touch with youth living on the brink of homelessness. All CHIL outreach team members are trained in strategies to identify, engage and respond to youth experiencing homelessness. The goal of the program is to build trust with hard-to-reach youth to provide them with services.
CHIL’s Aftercare Program ensures that youth leaving the residential program or who accessed CHIL services have all the tools they need to succeed. Our Outreach team maintains regular check-ins with all youth who wish to participate for a minimum of six months after they leave our program to provide additional support and guidance as they transition to independent living.
Beverly Williams joined CHIL in July 2022; her background and expertise has much to do with the success of the SOAP program. Beverly’s career in social services began 30 years ago. She worked with child abuse and domestic violence victims as well as providing training for caregivers and advocating for survivors. Later in her career, she transitioned to serving individuals experiencing homelessness and helping veterans retain housing. “Helping the homeless population required a shift in priorities. You must help people in the place they are at which often requires addressing their most basic needs first – food, clothing, or a shower before we can start working on the more complex challenges.”
One of the many priorities Beverly was tasked with was making CHIL’s service known to young people in need and increasing attendance in CHIL’s (then newly re-located) Youth Development Center. On an on-going basis, Beverly hosts a resource table to community resource fairs and maintains contact with other community organizations providing resources to youth in need. Today, CHIL has served over 1,000 young people through the Youth Development Center.
“One of my favorite parts of my job is making sure young people are still doing o.k. once they move out of the program. If issues arise, like say covering a month’s rent if a youth unexpectantly loses their job, we are here to help them organize their financial priorities and to make sure they can keep their apartment or living situation stable. We don’t want them to have to take a step back and start all over again. It’s all a part of dealing with unknown circumstances in life and helping them as they grow into independent adults.”
Having worked in Social Services for over 30 years, Beverly remains committed to helping people in crisis despite the emotionally taxing work. “This is the work I was born to do, and we have to interrupt the cycle and empower our youth to use their voice and protect themselves.”
Bringing a wealth of experience and compassion to her role, Beverly has quickly become an invaluable asset to the CHIL team in providing the best care to young people and has worked with over 120 youth since she began at CHIL a year ago. “I believe every young person deserves to be heard and supported with whatever their goals might be. I try and make sure every young person leaves in a better position than when they came to meet with me and that each person has a plan for a safe place to sleep each night.