Covenant House Youth Transitions to the Labor Market


Covenant House provides housing and supportive services for young people facing homelessness and for survivors of human trafficking in 33 cities in six countries. It implements programs designed to empower young people to overcome adversity and strives to deliver services with unconditional love, absolute respect, and relentless support. Each Covenant House location offers a mix of core programs, including street outreach, non-residential programs like drop-in centers, and a range of residential programs, including short-term, transitional, and permanent housing. Covenant House sites also offer wraparound supports, including on-site mental health, primary health care, and educational and workforce development programs. 

Covenant House aims to design programs that are responsive to the unique needs of youth who have experienced homelessness and that address young peoples’ diverse goals and aspirations, including those related to careers and workforce participation. To achieve that purpose, Covenant House International and MDRC began a partnership in January 2021 to develop descriptive research, designed in collaboration with young people served by Covenant House, that explores their experiences navigating the labor market. The resulting findings will be used to inform both Covenant House’s future program development and the nation’s policies for young people experiencing homelessness.

Agenda, Scope, and Goals

MDRC’s research collaboration with Covenant House is exploring the experiences of young people as they attempt to transition into the workforce: What have been their experiences, their assets, and their challenges? What kind of supports help—or would help them—navigate the transition into a changing labor market? Research findings will be used to inform the development of Covenant House International’s career pathway programs.

Design, Sites, and Data Sources

This project uses participatory research methods, based on the idea that the people who are most affected by an issue should be partners in the learning process rather than subjects of it. MDRC and Covenant House International recruited six research fellows from young people participating in the programs. The research team held a series of workshops with them, and they directly informed the research questions, the analysis, and the interpretation of the findings. Research fellows also helped develop a survey instrument, which was fielded to about 400 young people, and protocols for in-depth qualitative interviews with nine young people.