Covenant House Illinois
Meet CHIL's Residential Program Manager: Gwen Williams-Pettis
Gwen joined the CHIL team as our Residential Program Manager in (month? 2021), bringing over 25 years of experience working within social service agencies throughout Chicago. She oversees CHIL’s shelter program where youth (ages 18-24) can stay for up to 120 days while working towards their goals and building their independence.
“I’ve seen countless young people move through the program; work towards their goals; whether it be school or employment; save up and move out on their own. We have some extraordinarily resilient young people, who with just a little support and encouragement are able to overcome obstacles to build happy independent lives.”
Once a youth moves out of the program, we begin the intake process immediately, typically filling the space within 24 hours. “Due to the overwhelming need for emergency shelter beds, especially ones tailored to young people, we want to get that next individual off the streets and housed with us as quickly as possible,” says Gwen.
The intake process begins with an interview and health assessment with one of our Clinical Case Managers. This process ensures that CHIL staff members are best equipped to address the specific challenges and needs a young person might be experiencing.
“What drew me to the work at CHIL is our Trauma-informed care and harm reduction model approach.”
At CHIL we recognize and respond to the signs, symptoms, and risks of trauma to better support the health needs of youth who have experienced Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and toxic stress.
“For example,” Gwen explains, “some of the young people who come to us are domestic abuse survivors and need additional support measures. These individuals are not only navigating the challenges of overcoming homeless but also experiencing the trauma and long-stemmed challenges of abuse”.
“We’ve seen young people overcome tremendous barriers and move onto a path of independent living. That is the most rewarding part of working with our Youth.”
But Gwen is also mindful of recognizing the smaller-scale achievements our youth have made. “I don’t think of success like everybody else,” she says. “I think of success as the small steps taken along the way towards a goal such as enrolling back in school. I’m proud of the little successes and everyday accomplishments of our youth. It’s important to celebrate and encourage our youth to keep working towards their goals”