Former homeless youth gives back to agency that helped turn his life around

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ST. LOUIS – Nicholas Bowens was once homeless. Now, he runs a real estate business. Bowens credits his time living at Covenant House in north St. Louis for his turnaround.

“I was able to start a business, start a family, and start giving back,” he said.

Bowens now serves on the board of directors for Covenant House Missouri and is one of the most credible voices for homeless youth currently staying at Covenant House.

“Their whole mood changes,” he said. “They’re more open, they know there’s a possibility at that point.”

Bowens joined more than 70 St. Louis-area executives on Thursday for a sleep out to raise awareness about youth homelessness. They used cardboard boxes as a mattress and slept on the ground outside Covenant House in the Kingsway West neighborhood.

Covenant House Missouri CEO Jessica Erfling said Bowens is not alone.

“I’ve seen first jobs, college graduations, first apartments, marriages, first children, just all of those amazing firsts in life that come from our resilient young people,” she said.

Erfling estimates there are between 600 and 1,000 area youth who are homeless each night.

John Nienas, the board chair for Covenant House Missouri, is participating in the annual sleep-out event and hopes it raises awareness and prompts action.

“This is an awful way to live and you want to change that,” he said.

Covenant House provides a place for youth to stay and programs that foster mental, physical and emotional wellness. Erfling said Thursday’s sleep out will raise more than $300,000.

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