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The Covenant

Each day, scores of kids walk into Covenant Houses across the Americas for the first time. They get what they need immediately: a shower, a meal, clothes, a warm bed, and medical care if they require it – more than a third do. Then, Covenant House has expectations of the kids. Once they’re safe, clothed and fed, it's time for them to make a plan. The staff promises to help them, and the kids promise to help themselves – that’s the covenant.

Covenant House History

In the late 1960s, a Franciscan priest, the Rev. Bruce Ritter, made a life-changing decision – one that would alter not only his own life but ultimately the lives of thousands of homeless kids for years to come.

Father Ritter was a tenured professor at Manhattan College when he made the important choice to step down from his post in order to begin a new ministry. He and his colleague, Father James Fitzgibbon, moved into a dilapidated tenement building in New York City's East Village and, along with a handful of friends, former students, and neighbors, began an effort to serve the city's poor.

By 1970, Father Fitzgibbon had moved on to devote more time to drug counseling and other community ministries, but Father Ritter remained. Adrian Gately, Patricia Kennedy, and Paul Frazier joined him to create the Covenant Community. Two years later, in 1972, Covenant House was officially incorporated, with its first intake center established at 504 LaGuardia Place in New York City.

Now an established nonprofit, Covenant House began fundraising, using the monies to shelter homeless kids in lower Manhattan and on Staten Island. In 1976, Father Ritter announced plans to create a multiservice center near the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Covenant House then acquired a group of buildings on West 44th Street and moved its administrative offices to the new location.

Throughout the late 1970s, Covenant House continued to expand its social service programs in New York City and by 1980 was ready to branch out to other places. For the next two decades, Covenant House grew at an exhilarating pace under the leadership of Sister Mary Rose (1990-2003) and Sister Tricia Cruise (2003-2008), opening Crisis Centers in 20 more cities in the United States, Central America, and Canada.

Currently under the leadership of Kevin Ryan, Covenant House served more than 56,000 homeless kids last year, giving them the love and support they need to find their way off of the streets.