History

Celebrating over 25 years of caring for and transforming the lives of homeless youth in New Jersey!

In 1989, Covenant House began its work in New Jersey by providing basic services to homeless youth on the streets of Newark and Atlantic City. Outreach staff traveled in vans to these areas offering food, clothing, counseling and referrals for shelter. The following year storefront operations began, and by 1992, the Community Service Centers most people recognize were opened in both Newark and Atlantic City.

In 1993, we opened our first transitional living program in Atlantic City - Rights of Passage (ROP). ROP meets the needs of youth who have become stabilized enough to benefit from a program that provides education, job training and placement, leading to independent living. In 2001, we opened ROP in Newark. Since then, we have expanded the ROP program, opening two beautiful new facilities in Atlantic City and Newark in 2008. 

In 1999, Governor Whitman signed the New Jersey Homeless Youth Act into law our Atlantic City site. We also opened our Medical Services Office in Atlantic City with an on-site Nurse Practitioner. For the full text of the bill, view pdf.

In 2003, we began a partnership with Raphael’s Life House in Elizabeth to provide residential and support services to young women with newborns and expectant mothers.

During that same year, Our Youth Advocacy Center also co-authored and facilitated the passage of the New Jersey Tuition Waiver Bill, which was signed into law by Governor McGreevey at our Newark site. For the full text of the bill, view pdf.

In 2004, Neil Berg and his talented Broadway partners began collaborating with us to produce what has become the signature event of Covenant House, A Night of Broadway Stars. They put on a fabulous show every year at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center to benefit the youth of Covenant House, and in 2008, the show was introduced to Atlantic City at The Borgata.

Over the past 25 years, we have grown both horizontally through capital expansion and vertically, by creating more services and enhancing the quality of those services. From North to South, the focus is always on meeting the needs of our youth, whose needs never stop growing.

In 2008, our Outreach team expanded its reach to Paterson and Cumberland County. While Outreach continues to provide the essential services that established our presence in New Jersey two decades ago, it has expanded to a solid program forming partnerships with local schools, organizations and government agencies to make sure all youth in the state are served. Our Outreach teams in North and South Jersey do presentations on a regular basis, and touch everyone who listens.

In 2009, we opened a program especially for mentally ill homeless youth called Nancy’s Place in Montclair. In response to the special needs of this unique population, the program is staffed 24 hours a day, and offers the intensive care these young people need to become self-sufficient and independent.

In 2010, we completed extensive renovations at Raphael’s Life House. During the previous year, Covenant House acquired the 125 year old convent that houses the moms and babies program to ensure the program would continue to be a safe haven for young families as long as they need us.

2012: Covenant House's trademark is to go where the kids are, and we began to see an increase in homeless youth from three key New Jersey cities: Camden, Asbury Park and Jersey City.  With the support of our friends who are specifically invested in these areas, we opened drop-in centers and hired dedicated Outreach Teams who spend their days and nights finding homeless youth who need our services.

2013: To help complete the steps in our continuum of housing opportunities, we opened our Supportive Apartment Living programs in Newark and Montclair.  Here, young people share an apartment with a roommate and carry out the independent living skills they learned during their time at Covenant House, all while working full-time, advancing their education and paying a discounted rent so they can continue to save for their futures.

2014: Covenant House New Jersey turns 25!  While we lament the sadness of the growing need for our services, we celebrate this year the kids who have turned their lives around, the staff and volunteers who have helped them to do so with such devotion and the friends and supporters who make it all possible.