supporting the vulnerable youth who come through our doors with absolute respect and unconditional love. To this day, we remain committed to this duty.
We know that the youth we serve each and every day are the future of our country, and when given the right services and opportunities, they have the chance to build a brighter future.
left home because of abuse
experienced bullying, which made school more difficult
left home before the age of 18
of youth who identified as LGBTQ+ reported feeling unsafe
*Information based on our Youth Survey
The impact of our youth's experiences of trauma can be seen in their struggles to become independent.
"I wouldn’t have considered pursuing a career in nursing if I hadn’t gone through some of the challenges I’ve experienced in my life,” Jim Leung reflects. “In following this career path, I hope to give back to Covenant House by one day working in their health care clinic and supporting youth like me.”
Jim came to Covenant House about five years ago after becoming estranged from his parents. He spent time both in our crisis shelter and CIBC Rights of Passage (ROP) program, where he developed a close relationship with his youth worker, Genieve Tan.
“During his time at ROP, Jim was a very hard working, academically driven young man,” Genieve says. His hard work and the support he received at Covenant House paid off. Jim graduated high school with honours and then gained acceptance in the Life Sciences program at the University of Toronto.
He completed his Bachelor of Science with Honours while living independently, and with a renewed sense of self and direction, his sights are now set on a career in nursing. These photos, taken by Jim, are a continuation of his story.
In 2015, I broke free after being trafficked for over a year. When I connected with my advocate with the Anti-Trafficking Team at Covenant House, it was the first time I felt someone understood what I had been through and what I was still dealing with.
The Rogers Home provided a change in surroundings that made it easier to focus on rebuilding my confidence and independence. Covenant House encouraged the healthy connections I already had in my life, so I was able to stay close with my family, maintain my part-time job and continue volunteering in my community while learning to find a better balance that gave me time to heal.
While living at the Rogers Home, I returned to university to complete my degree in International Studies and Law and Social Thought. It was a goal I finally felt capable of achieving after years of spiralling. I now live in a community apartment offered by Covenant House and am one step closer to being fully independent. I feel more safe, capable and confident than I have in years as I balance school, work, volunteering and a healthy social life.
“I am full of gratitude for my time spent with Covenant House. Thanks to my time here, I am ready to take on everything my future has to offer.”
As we conclude the first year of our 2018-2022 strategic plan, we continue to build on the momentum of the last five years by deepening our work in several strategic areas, including long-term housing. Much of our work focuses on addressing a concerning trend that’s been on the rise over the last 10 years—a record high daily number of youth staying for longer periods of time in our shelter. This makes it difficult for others to access our shelter beds. In fact, 743 youth stayed in our crisis shelter last year, which is 20 per cent less than we were able to accommodate the previous year. Contributing factors include Toronto’s expensive rental market and the lack of stable, affordable housing and sustainable employment opportunities for youth.
We know that when we combine a wider range of housing options with the mentorship and guidance offered by our caring staff, young people can achieve better long-term outcomes. This year, with the support of private donors, corporate partners, the City of Toronto and its Community Housing Corporation, we were able to expand our transitional housing and after-care support. This increase provided independent living experiences for 15 per cent more of our youth. We are also continuing to expand our housing for victims of sex trafficking as part of our comprehensive anti-trafficking plan.
As the needs of our youth become more varied and complex, we are evolving to better serve them. We have begun enhancing and improving access to services for young people struggling with trauma, mental health and substance use. We believe that delivering programming that is responsive to individual needs will help youth experience control over their circumstances and realize their potential to live happier and more productive lives.
To help our youth achieve independence, we continue to provide high-quality education and job training programs internally and through partnerships in the community. Building on the success of our culinary arts training program, Cooking for Life, we will be exploring other opportunities for our youth in the coming year.
Preventing homelessness and sex-trafficking is a key priority for our agency. We are increasing our efforts to raise awareness of the factors that lead to these circumstances by expanding our in-school prevention programming and training to sectors and industries that are in contact with victims of trafficking or sexual exploitation. We are also working with community partners across the city to develop strategies that will engage and strengthen family relationships in an effort to help end the cycle of homelessness.
Last year, our Board of Directors focused on meeting the diverse needs of youth while ensuring our agency operates at a level of excellence. This included:
With this plan and the compassion of donors and partners like you, we are primed to build on the success we’ve achieved. We are most grateful for your continued support.
Housing and after-care
GOAL: Expand housing and after-care services to meet the complex and diverse needs of our youth.
Health and well-being
GOAL: Improve the health and well-being of our youth.
Education and employment
GOAL: Expand educational and employment opportunities for our youth.
Prevention and early intervention
GOAL: Expand our initiatives in homelessness and sex trafficking prevention and early intervention to better protect our youth.
Organizational capacity and excellence
GOAL: Increase our organization’s reputation and capacity to ensure we can grow and deliver programs and services to our youth.
A quick stroll through the halls of Covenant House tells you everything you need to know about the generosity of one of our most devoted corporate donors.
Their financial support has helped fund everything from new buildings and capital improvements to numerous prevention and early intervention efforts. There’s never been a time when there wasn’t CIBC representation on the Covenant House Board of Directors.
Since 2005, they’ve funded the Rights of Passage program, which supports youth as they build the life skills they need to live independently. Each youth works with their worker to set goals for the future and accesses services that help them put their plans into motion.
The program aligns perfectly with CIBC’s overall youth-at-risk strategy. “CIBC Rights of Passage helps youth get the support they need so they can realize independence and success, whatever that means to them,” said Runa Whitaker, Senior Director of Community Investment at CIBC. “Our hope for the participants is that they are able to live a fulfilling, independent life.”
Thanks to CIBC’s generous contributions, many program graduates are doing exactly that.
When she was a girl, Dr. Vivienne Poy knew two things for sure: education is the key to success—and it’s the duty of the privileged to help others achieve their dreams.
She learned these values from her father, who embodied a family legacy of generosity by quietly investing time and resources to give young people opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have experienced.
Poy grew up to become the first Canadian senator of Asian ancestry, president of her own fashion design company, chancellor of the University of Toronto and founder of the Lee Tak Wai Foundation. She’s also a proud wife, mother and grandmother.
Throughout it all, Poy gave back. She began supporting Covenant House in 1987 when she saw how troubled youth were empowered with services and education. In 2009, she became a monthly donor. Recently, through her foundation, she pledged to support Covenant House’s work to prevent sex trafficking.
“Education is the only leveler in society, the only way to lift yourself up. I want to do everything I can to help future generations succeed.”
Over the last year, much of our research and evaluation work focused on enhancing our understanding of the diverse needs of the youth we serve and how we can better meet these needs. These findings were critical to the review of our programming and helped inform the adjustments we made to the way we are delivering services to youth.
Throughout this process, our goal has remained the same: to help young people gain momentum in their lives by making their time at Covenant House their last experience with homelessness.
The youth we are seeing at Covenant House have experienced high levels of trauma, and as a result of this trauma, they are struggling to cope. When youth are dealing with significant amounts of trauma, it can be difficult for them to think through a plan for going back to school, getting a job or finding an apartment as a first priority.
To better address this, we have adjusted our relationship-focused approach so that it places the needs of each individual youth at the centre of their care. Each young person is actively involved in identifying their personal goals and developing customized plans based on their individual situations.
As part of this approach, we have moved away from our abstinence-based model in order to better support our youth struggling with substance use so that they get the help they need in a timely, more supportive manner.
Building a strong, authentic relationship is the most important factor in working with each youth we serve. This is the conduit for change and growth in their lives and a place where healing from their past can begin.
We believe delivering programming that is responsive to the individual needs of youth will help them experience control over their situations and see that they have the potential to live happy and productive lives.
National research to determine the barriers sex trafficking victims experience that prevent them from getting the help they need.
An evaluation of The Rogers Home, our specialized transitional housing program for victims of sex trafficking.
An assessment of the needs of sex trafficking victims in Toronto.
The release of the findings of our national study on the behaviours and attitudes of teen girls related to the risks associated with luring and sex trafficking.
At Covenant House Toronto, we measure our effectiveness by our ability to successfully deliver and expand services for at-risk, homeless and trafficked youth. We manage this through a continuous-improvement framework focused on our operations, fundraising ability and efficiency, governance practices and stewardship.
The Board of Directors is responsible for the stewardship of the agency and the oversight of our management and business affairs.
Our governance structure includes policies, guidelines and practices that provide a framework for decision-making and operations across the agency. This includes Board recruitment, succession planning, staff compensation and evaluation, Board and Committee mandates, risk management, strategic and annual planning, and financial management and controls.
Fiscal stewardship and transparency
Covenant House is unique among social service organizations in that more than 80 per cent of our annual operating budget comes from donations, whereas many other not-for-profits receive most of their revenues from government funding or other organizations. Our fundraising is in line with government and industry standards.
While we are working to access more government funding, we also want to ensure our services are viable over the long-term and responsive to our youth’s changing needs.
As a primarily self-funded agency, we recognize that we must have a diverse portfolio of fundraising programs and revenue sources to ensure financial viability and reduce risk. We have been working toward the development of lower-cost fundraising sources for the past several years and have had continued success in growing monthly giving, leadership gifts and major peer-to-peer events.
This year, we also completed a review of our philanthropic giving area and developed a strategy to leverage our potential in this area.
Our policy is to maintain a maximum reserve fund of up to six months of our current operating budget to be used for emergency situations, capital upgrades and/or for the agency’s future development.
Our responsibility is to address the manner in which our investment portfolio is managed. The responsibility for the agency’s long-, medium- and short-term investments lies with the Board.
We are committed to an ongoing program of risk management to protect the organization and its assets (people, property, income and reputation). Management is responsible for the delivery of a Board-approved risk management policy which deals with program delivery, governance, operations, finance and regulatory compliance.
We ended the year in a much stronger financial position than planned with a $2.4-million surplus on a consolidated basis. This was mostly the result of increasing our fundraising revenue by 6 per cent and decreasing our operating expenses by over 2 per cent versus our budget.
We are seeing strong evidence of the investments we have been making in the fundraising area over the past five years. These investments include growing our overall donor base with emphasis in high-performing and lower-cost fundraising programs. With this in mind, we have increased our monthly donor program and our leadership-level gifts while improving the profitability of our events to a 90 per cent return.
As a result, we exceeded our fundraising revenues versus budget by almost $1.3 million and increased our overall contribution to the programs supporting our youth by over $2 million or almost 14 per cent over the previous year.
We continue to re-invest our surplus to fund our strategic plan initiatives, capital projects to upgrade our facilities, housing options for youth, technology and systems improvements and to ensure we have a maximum coverage of up to six months of annual operating expenses in reserves to be used for emergency situations.
We are most grateful to Catholic Charities and ShareLife for their continued support of our transitional housing, Youth In Transition and mentorship programs.
Technology and Operations
Founder and CEO
Clariti Strategic Advisors
Senior Global Advisor
President and CEO
Street Capital Bank of Canada
Munk School of Global Affairs
& Public Policy
University of Toronto
Baker & McKenzie LLP
Child Victim Program
Boost Child & Youth Advocacy Centre
Wilson Vukelich LLP
Chief Operating Officer
Director of Client Service
Resources Global Professionals (RGP)
Sister Mary Rowell
Sisters of St. Joseph
Chief Mark Saunders
Toronto Police Services
Acuity Sales Inc.
The Honourable Karen Weiler
Retired Judge of the Court of Appeal for Ontario
Director, Finance & Purchasing
Josie do Rego
Director, Development & Communications
Director, Program Services
Associate Executive Director
It’s because of you that our youth have access to the programs and services they need to build a brighter future.
We are grateful to all of our donors, partners and volunteers.
There are many ways you can get involved to help. You can make a significant impact on the lives of at-risk, homeless and trafficked youth.Find Out How
Your support goes directly to providing safe shelter, food, counselling and opportunities for our youth.Donate Now
… is to serve the suffering children and youth on the street and to protect and safeguard all children and youth… with absolute respect and unconditional love.
To lead change that challenges at-risk, homeless and trafficked youth to pursue a life of opportunity.