Covenant House Pennsylvania was incorporated in 1999, and we opened our first program during June of that year in Philadelphia. Services began humbly with a Street Outreach and Drop-In program that worked predominantly with street youth in the Kensington section of the city. Youth were offered a place to eat, do laundry and get referrals for more complex needs such as housing and medical care. Immediately it became obvious that we needed to expand services due to the large number of homeless youth who came to our doors with no place to go.
In response to these needs, we closed down our storefront drop-in center and opened an eight-bed Crisis Residence in North Philadelphia along with a separate Community Service Center in June 2000. Again, as more and more youth turned to us for housing, it was clear that this program could not meet their overwhelming needs. In order to serve the large number of homeless youth who were coming to us, we opened our 51-bed Crisis Center in the old Asher’s Chocolate Factory in the Germantown section of Philadelphia in October 2001.
Many of the youth who stay with us in our Crisis Center have nowhere else to go. Their family life all too often involved abuse, neglect, violence, or addiction, until they were removed by the foster care system, fled to escape their situation, or were pushed out by family who could not–or would not–care for them. The common factor in all these cases is the need to have a safe, stable living environment where they can learn the necessary skills to cross the bridge to independence.
To help our youth make this transition, we created our Rights of Passage program in 2003. In 2011, we built a beautiful new Rights of Passage building that houses twenty youth in their own apartments, where we can give them the support they need. We built this new building on the same site where the original Covenant House Drop-In Center stood on Kensington Avenue, showing our commitment to the neighborhood and to our kids who live there.