20-year-old Covenant House Texas resident Zachary has a passion for making people smile with his artwork and plans to spread love through the community by sharing his personal story and creativity this Valentine’s Day. While his journey to CHT has not been easy, his optimistic outlook on the present and future is hard to beat.
After leaving foster care and returning to his mother’s home for four years, he would again be separated from family due to an altercation with a teenage cousin. Zachary spent many nights following this incident on the streets. Unsure of where to turn next, he knew he wanted to finish high school.
Upon re-enrollment, Zachary became one of 111,000 students in Texas schools who are experiencing homelessness while working to finish their education. He was also part of the 15% who are attending school without a parent or guardian.
Soon after his first day of class, school faculty intervened and referred him to the first shelter he would call home. Here, he would make a lifelong friend, and now fellow CHT resident, Paul. </div
Eventually, Zachary decided that the environment was not a good fit for him, and he returned to the streets for nearly a week before seeking haven at CHT. “My first experience with a youth homeless shelter wasn’t the best for me, but once I came to Covenant House, I felt more secure here than I ever had before,” he shared.
With a world of new opportunities in front of him in 2023, first on the agenda is using his artistic talent to make Valentine’s Day extra special for CHT supporters. This February, our donors will receive a mailer containing a card designed by Zachary that can be shared with loved ones in the spirit of our mission to show unconditional love to our community and to our youth residents.
Zachary says he typically draws with graphite pencil on anything he can find as drawing is an outlet that helps him cope with negative emotions like anger, frustration or sadness. For this special occasion, Zachary experimented with acrylic paints in bright, cheerful colors.Filled with hope for the future, Zachary recently earned his flagger certification to begin working in construction full time and even reconnected with his biological father through social media.
“I’m reconnecting with my dad after 13 years and I honestly feel optimistic,” said Zachary. “He welcomed me to come visit immediately and I even found out I have half siblings and I’m an uncle. I think this could be a great time to grow and heal for all of us.”
While it was an epic journey to a safe haven where he could stop surviving day to day and begin living for his future, Zachary’s 2022 was a memorable year that will likely impact the rest of his life.
“I knew I was on the right track when I attended Sleep Out: Executive Edition in November, just a month after coming to Covenant House,” said Zachary. “I surprised myself and ended up sharing my own experiences with small groups while we were educating participants on what it’s really like to be homeless. It felt really good to get that off my chest. I already have my calendar marked so I can be part of Sleep Out: Spring Edition.”