Covenant House president pens bestseller
By Lois Rogers | Features Editor
By now, Kevin Ryan, the president of Covenant House, should be used to the acclaim his book, “Almost Home: Helping Kids Move from Homelessness to Hope” has received.
Since its August debut, the book, out from Wiley, John & Sons Incorporated, and a national bestseller, has garnered consistently positive reviews for, as Publisher’s Weekly put it, the narrative precision and journalistic detail which pour forth from its pages.
Co-written by Tina Kelley, Pulitzer- Prize winning reporter formerly of the New York Times, the book tells the stories of six young people who sought help from various Covenant House sites in the U.S. and Canada and the people who helped them improve their circumstances.
Since its publication, the book has been listed on the bestseller lists of the Washington Post, Newsday and Publisher’s Weekly.
Still, during a recent telephone interview, Ryan, who resides in Fair Haven with his wife and their six children, seemed somewhat taken aback by the fact that the book is still riding high on the Barnes & Noble bestseller list.
“It’s ahead of the latest ‘Wimpy Kid’ book,” says Ryan, a member of Nativity Parish, Fair Haven, citing a trendy youth favorite. “It’s quite a shock.”
Ryan, who has been working with Covenant House for much of the past 20 years, thinks some of the popularity of “Almost Home” stems from the fact that the book strikes a chord with people moved by the fact that it’s not just about runaway kids.
It’s also, he noted, about the people who dedicated themselves to helping the six troubled young people featured break free of the morass that led them into homelessness.
“These were people of good will who helped (the youths) reset their lives,” said Ryan, who oversees the organization’s work in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua.
Aside from his time with Covenant House, Ryan also worked for the United Nations, helping to launch a major effort to curb the number of juvenile deaths caused each year by malaria. In the diocese, he is well remembered for serving as New Jersey’s first Child Advocate where he exposed a series of high profile failings in the State juvenile justice system, including the illegal detention of hundreds of children awaiting mental health care.
Covenant House helps approximately 57,000 youths a year, including many now accessing its outreach services in offices at the West Side Community Center, Asbury Park. Over its 40-year history, Covenant House statistics show it has helped more than 1.2 million young people.
Though the book tells just a handful of stories, Ryan said those who’ve read it say it captures the essence of the darkness faced by so many young people.
During the interview, he outlined the stories including that of a teenage girl snared in post-Katrina New Orleans and the woman, a cook for Covenant House there, who helped the girl “cross the bridge” from poverty to opportunity.
There was “Paulie”, an Alaskan youth who walked Ryan across the city in his daily ritual of becoming invisible by buying one cup of water in a food court and refilling it all day long which allowed him to blend in. Ryan also talked of “Benjamin” who spent long amounts of time in a gym blending in there.
Ryan calls these kids “survivors of the highest order” and says their stories are more than worth telling.
They call attention, he said, to the fact that there are at least 2 million homeless young people in the United States who remain largely invisible as they manage to blend-in among us.
He said it’s his hope that “Almost Home” has opened a window on the extraordinary lives and situations faced by young people as they struggle to escape life on the streets.[[In-content Ad]]