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In the late 1960s, a Franciscan priest, the Reverend Bruce Ritter, made a life-changing decision – one that would not only alter 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 non-profit, Covenant House began to fundraise, using the monies too shelter homeless kids in lower Manhattan and on Staten Island. In 1976, Father Ritter announced plans to create a multi-service center near the Prot 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 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 20 crisis centers in the US, Canada, and Latin America.
Currently, under the leadership of Kevin Ryan, Covenant House serves 55,000 homeless kids annually giving them the love and support they need to find their way off of the streets.
Covenant House sites include: Alaska, California (Hollywood and Oakland), Florida (Fort Lauderdale and Orlando), Georgia, New Orleans, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey (Atlantic City and Newark), New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington D.C., Vancouver, Toronto, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Nicaragua.