March 3, 2020

Kendra’s Story

Kendra is 22 years old and grew up in Toms River after being adopted after two days old. When she got older her family circumstances took a turn for the worse when both of her parents got sick and she had to take care of her seven other adopted siblings, one who autism and needed constant care. While Kendra thrived in school especially English, she had to overcome obstacles being in a blended family. Growing up with white parents and being black wasn’t common in Toms River.

In December 2013 her mother passed away from diabetes then her father passed on Christmas three years later after fighting a battle with cancer.

On January 1st, 2017 everyone was evicted, Kendra’s siblings were separated and she began couch surfing which later led to life on the streets. From abandoned buildings to park benches, Kendra slept with her belonging tied to her wrists in the event someone would try and take something she would wake up. Kendra hid fear and loneness, only to wake up and get ready for her day in the bathrooms of McDonald’s or Burger King. With the little money, she was able to get, Kendra had to make choices between feminine hygiene products or food.

After 5 months on the streets, Kendra struggled greatly with mental health and wanted to give up. During that time, she got bronchitis and the flu. She was soon taken to a hospital. Once staff realized she had nowhere to go they called Covenant House.

Unlike other shelters they told her, this one was for youth only.

Upon her arrival at Covenant House Atlantic City, staff reassured her she was safe, asked if she were hungry and told her she’d have her own bed where she slept the whole first day.

After staying in Atlantic City for almost a year and a half, Kendra chose to leave and return to the streets. Unlike Toms River, the human trafficking problem in Atlantic City is much higher and easier to spot. Traffickers target the more vulnerable and often go after our youth. Kendra was approached by a sex trafficker in broad daylight. It scared her enough to return to Covenant House but this time she wanted it to go to Newark.

The second time around, the hard work began immediately.

Kendra finished a 12-week work program at Hudson Community Enterprises. She became certified in clerical support assistance. She completed an internship at Hillside Recreation Center as a secretary and data entry assistant. Kendra became a peer leader and role model to the other youth at Covenant House. During her time at the Cov, she had an opportunity to go to The Giants game and meet Saquon and that was really special to her because her late father was a big Giants Fan. With the help of Covenant House, Kendra worked on her mental health, built her confidence and courage and took the proper steps to reunite with her family members and moved in with them and got a job.

Her goal for the future is to go to school to become a clinical social worker. After meeting people along the way, who has encouraged and supported her during some dark times and that’s what she wants to be for someone else.