Covenant House NY

About this page

GiveWell aims to find the best giving opportunities we can and recommend them to donors. We tend to put a lot of investigation into the organizations we find most promising, and de-prioritize others based on limited information. When we decide not to prioritize an organization, we try to create a brief writeup of our thoughts on that charity because we want to be as transparent as possible about our reasoning.

The following write-up should be viewed in this context: it explains why we determined that (for the time being), we won't be prioritizing the organization in question as potential top charity. This write-up should not be taken as a "negative rating" of the charities. Rather, it is our attempt to be as clear as possible about the process by which we came to our top recommendations.

A note on this page's publication date

The last time we examined the charities working primarily in the U.S. was in 2010. As of 2011, we have de-prioritized further work on this cause.

The content we created in 2007 appears below. This content is likely to be no longer fully accurate, both with respect to what it says about the organization and with respect to what it implies about our own views and positions.

Published: 2007

Note: Covenant House NY ( applied for a grant GiveWell offered in 2007, but did not receive the grant. The information below explains why.

In a nutshell

What they do: Covenant works with disconnected youth (not employed or in school), and its work-related programs (which we focused on) aim to place these youth in relatively low-skill jobs.
Does it work? We don't have enough information to say, with high confidence, that Covenant's clients do significantly better than they would without its help. We cannot go into details, due to confidentiality requests.
What do you get for your dollar? We can't say, as Covenant's budget information is confidential.
Where they rank: We do not recommend Covenant above our other finalists.

The Details

Table of Contents

Whom do they serve?

Covenant serves "disconnected youth" (ages 17-21, neither employed nor in school); their population appears to be extremely disadvantaged, more so than that of an organization like Year Up. Details follow.

Selection. Covenant serves "disconnected youth" (ages 17-21, neither employed nor in school – see Attachment A-2 Pg 2 – although the Nurse's Aide program described on Attachment A-4 Pg 1 appears to serve 18-22 year olds); beyond that, its requirements vary by program. The Nurse's Aide and Bank Teller programs are the most selective, requiring a high school degree or GED and no criminal record (Attachment A-4 Pg 1). Customer Service applicants also must have a high school degree or GED (or be enrolled in a GED program), and Security Guard applicants must have no criminal record; all other programs (Culinary Arts, Computer Skills, GED, Job Readiness) are apparently open to everyone within the age range (Attachment A-4 Pg 1).

Characteristics. Covenant states that its clients have the following characteristics (Attachment A-2 Pg 2):

  • Ethnicity: predominantly African-American and Latin-American (Attachment A-4 Pg 1)
  • GED/HS degree: unclear, but "more than half have dropped out of school by the tenth grade" (Attachment A-2 Pg 2)
  • Homeless (residents at a Covenant House shelter): 54% (Attachment A-4 Pg 2)

What do they do?

Skills Training

Note: Attachment A-2 refers to Skills Training programs, whereas Attachment A-4 refers to Job Training programs, but these appear to mean the same thing, as Attachment A-4 clearly distinguishes between Job Training and Job Readiness (see the last paragraph of Pg 2).

Skills Training programs prepare people for specific vocations, and we focus on them here since we have stronger outcomes data on these programs than on others. All of the following data is from Attachment A-4 Pg 1.

Program Ages Requirements Duration Hours/day
Nurse's aid 18-22 HS/GED; no criminal record 3 months 6
Bank teller 17-21 HS/GED; no criminal record 4 weeks 6
Security guard 18-21 No criminal record 2 weeks 6
Culinary arts 18-21 - 4 months 6
Microsoft Office specialist 17-21 - 6 wks + 1-3 month internship 6
Customer service 17-21 HS/GED 4 wks + 1 month internship 6

Other programs

Covenant House offers a one-week Job Readiness program; pre-GED and GED programs; and a scholarship program (see Attachment A-4 Pgs 1-2). We are very unclear on the details of these programs and have no information on outcomes for clients, so we focus on Skills Training.

What are the results?

Covenant requested that internal reports and budget information be kept confidential, so we cannot discuss its outcomes or costs. Having seen what we've seen, we do not have strong confidence that Covenant House is making a strong impact above and beyond how its clients would do otherwise.


We don't have strong confidence that Covenant House is making a significant impact, beyond how its applicants would do otherwise.

We'd like to know more about:

  • Outcomes data. Our outcomes data is very limited, particularly outside of the Skills Training programs.
  • Wage distribution. What portion of Covenant graduates earn more than $10/hr? $15/hr?
  • Training curriculum. We have a general overview, but we'd like to see the syllabus, formal layout, etc. to get a better sense of what clients are being trained to do and how they're being trained to do it.
  • Definitions. How does Covenant define "placement" and "retention"? Does it include part-time jobs?


A. Application and response

    Covenant House requested that internal reports be kept confidential.

The attachments we were sent are available in hard copy only.

D. Financials

The audit we were sent is available in hard copy only. Form 990s are available from GuideStar.