Street Beats: Empowering Homeless Youth Through Music

by / Monday, 15 May 2017 / Published in Community Health
Philadelphia homeless youths

If you live, work, or visit Philadelphia you are probably accustomed to seeing homeless people on the streets. It’s a sad reality of city life. Even more unfortunate is the growing number of homeless youth among those living on the streets.

A U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development survey in January found nearly 560 homeless youths living in emergency and transitional housing in Philadelphia. An additional 55 youths were living on the streets.

A Haven Exclusively for Homeless Youths in Philadelphia

Covenant House Pennsylvania offers the only beds in Philadelphia designated for homeless and trafficked young people aged 18 to 21, including those with young children and babies. This year, more than 700 young people will find stability and sanctuary in our 76-bed residential center, which offers a full array of supportive services including health, behavioral health, education, and vocation.

Many of these young adults come to us directly; others we find through our street outreach program, a team that travels to specific zip codes in Philadelphia four to five nights a week, offering young people the support they need where they reside.

Empowering Homeless Youths Through Music

In March, we launched an innovative new program to help homeless youth gain confidence, develop critical life skills, and express their creativity in a supportive environment with other Covenant House youths.

Street Beats, a new music production program funded by an Independence Blue Cross Foundation Blue Safety Net grant, empowers youth to create musical beats, write their own lyrics, record their songs, and perform. The Street Beats studio has high-quality audio equipment including an Apple iMAC desktop, midi keyboard, and drum machine, and recording interface.

The Man Behind Street Beats

Street Beats is the brainchild of our outreach coordinator, Carl Hill, who has been working at Covenant House for seven years. No one connects better with our residents than Carl. They trust him, they respect him, and most of all, they know he believes in them.

Carl works with residents weekly to help them create their beats or fine-tune their verses. He also designs photos and graphics for their songs and coordinates listening sessions at Café Armat, where the Covenant House holds weekly gatherings for residents to sing, dance, rap, and express themselves creatively.

Why Music?

Music is one of life’s great unifiers. It brings joy to those who listen and appreciate it, and builds feelings of self-worth and excitement for those who create it. For homeless youth who are often ignored, Street Beats shows them that they have a voice. It’s a “beacon of light,” as one of our Street Beat artists wrote. Already, the program has made an invaluable difference in the lives of two residents:

Dominick writes music about his past growing up in Philadelphia and his current experiences at Covenant House. A shy and reserved young man, Dominick has blossomed through his Street Beats music. He’s truly found his voice and looks forward to creating more music and possibly making music a future career.

Qadir is a 21-year old from the Germantown section of Philadelphia who endured the challenges of being a young adult trying to find his way. He decided to move into a shelter due to his family environment, which led him to Covenant House.

Sample of Qadir’s poetry

 

Qadir, better known to his Covenant Family as “Q,” is a poet, whose work reflects the newfound skills he has gained at Covenant House, skills that helped him become self-sufficient and self-confident. His verses reveal his fortitude and creativity:

“Started from the bottom
Aiming for the top
I’m never gonna quit
I’m never gonna stop

Bleeding from my hands
Going from rock to rock
My watch keeps me going
Tick Tock Tick Tock”

Street Beats participants will be showcasing their music at the annual Covenant House fundraising gala, “A Night of Broadway Stars” on June 12, 2017. For more information about the gala or to get tickets, visit stars.covenanthousepa.org.

 

Paul Wheatley
Paul Wheatley is Director of Development and Marketing at Covenant House Pennsylvania, where he has been working for two years. 

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