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FY24 - FY26 Strategic Plan

Nurturing Potential


Covenant House Illinois’ FY24 – FY26 Strategic Plan, Nurturing Potential, is a result of an inclusive, six-month process that engaged a broad set of the organization’s community including young people, staff, board members, financial supporters, program partners, and government officials. Insights and data from the following activities guided and informed the plan:

SOAR Engagement and Assessment Report

A cornerstone of Covenant House Illinois’ strategy development was the SOAR (Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations and Results) assessment process. The aim of the SOAR process was to gather meaningful insights from key constituent groups and partners to inform Covenant House Illinois’ strategy development. More than 60 constituents participated in focus groups, interviews and surveys during the SOAR process resulting in the SOAR assessment report.

Year 1 Action Planning

Covenant House Illinois’ leadership team created a FY 2024 action plan with detailed tactical steps to realize the strategic plan’s goals.

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Since 2017, Covenant House Illinois has provided more than 20,000 nights of shelter to young people experiencing homelessness. We opened our new campus at 2934 W. Lake Street in 2021 and expect to serve more than 300 young people in fiscal year 2023 (July 1, 2022-June 30, 2023) with 37 beds of transitional housing, our Youth Development Center, our Street Outreach and Aftercare Program, and other wrap-around supportive services, all of which are shaped by youth voice.

Covenant House Illinois’ FY24-FY26 strategic plan will drive our efforts to provide comprehensive, trauma-sensitive care to Chicago’s young people (ages 18 to 24) experiencing homelessness. The plan’s three major initiatives include:

Completing the development of our final phase of campus development and opening 19 additional beds of transitional housing on our second floor;

➢ Developing and implementing a new program model for transitional housing that supports a specific, high-need group of young people, driven by data and youth voice; and,

➢ Creating an executable plan for a new permanent housing initiative and launching the associated predevelopment and fundraising processes.


Strategic Planning Committee

  • Mark Hennessy, MBA, Chair, Board of Directors

  • Andre Goode, Member, Board of Directors

  • Jeff Kilpatrick, MBA, Member, Board of Directors

  • Asha Varghese, MBA, Member, Board of Directors

  • Joel Zawko, Community Supporter

  • Susan Reyna-Guerrero, LCSW, Executive Director

  • Johnpaul Higgins, Director of Development

Leadership Team Contributors

  • Amy Laird, LCSW, Director of Programs & Program Implementation

  • Chris Murphy, Director of Finance

  • Jennifer Nelson-Seals, MSHRM, Director of Administration & Operations

Planning Consultants

John W. Pfeiffer, MPA, Lauri Alpern, PhD, and Diane Pascal of Open Door Advisors

Steven Rosado, MEd, of The Praxis Institute

Special Acknowledgements

Covenant House Illinois would like to thank all of the young people and program partners who contributed their time and insights to our strategic planning process. 


Funding for strategic planning was generously provided by Polk Bros. Foundation.


Vision, Mission & Values



Every young person has access to stable housing and the opportunity to realize their full potential



The mission of Covenant House Illinois is to offer young people (ages 18-24) experiencing homelessness an affirming community, absolute respect, unconditional love, and a path to lasting independence.



Antiracism and Social Justice – We honor the richness of our diversity by pursuing our common goal of equity, inclusion and belonging for all.
Collaboration – We commit to working in partnership with other organizations to achieve our mission.
Excellence – We commit to delivering the highest quality programs and services that are informed by data, staff expertise, and the experiences of the young people we serve. We encourage continuous learning, so each person reaches their greatest potential.
Inclusion – Our doors are open to young people and staff regardless of their race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and disability.
Integrity – We maintain the highest standards of accountability and stewardship of our resources.

Vision, Mission & Values

Guiding Principles & Core Programs

Focal Populations

Young people (ages 18 to 24) experiencing homelessness, including those who:

  • have experienced trauma including violence;

  • have experienced discrimination for being LGBTQ and gender nonconforming;

  • are pregnant and parenting;

  • have been involved in human trafficking; and,

  • have been involved in the justice system.

Priority Communities 

Covenant House Illinois serves young people from throughout Chicagoland, with a focus on the communities of the city’s West Side.

Guiding Principles

Covenant House Illinois has adopted the following principles developed by Covenant House International to guide its work with young people experiencing homelessness. 

Immediacy – Covenant House Illinois immediately meets the basic needs of youth experiencing homelessness through a nourishing meal, a shower, clean clothes, medical attention, and a safe place to sleep.

Sanctuary – Covenant House Illinois provides a safe haven from the hardships of homelessness. We recognize the fundamental worth of every human being, and create a safe setting where all youth – regardless of life experience or identity – are served without judgement.

Value Communication – Covenant House Illinois leads by example to demonstrate that caring relationships are based on love, trust, respect, and honesty.

Structure – Covenant House Illinois provides the stability and structure necessary to build a positive future.

Choice – Covenant House Illinois fosters confidence; encouraging young people to believe in themselves and make informed choices for their lives.

Core Programs 

Covenant House Illinois empowers young people by providing holistic, trauma-sensitive services guided by harm-reduction principles, partnering with them to meet their individual and unique needs.

Interim Housing – our residential program provides young people with an affirming refuge, clinical case management and trauma-sensitive wrap-around services in a community setting.

Youth Development Center – offers supports and resources to help young people move towards increased stability in a safe and supportive environment where they can access food, showers, laundry, personal storage, and a place to rest and relax.

Clinical Case Management – provides support to young people as they navigate and access community services, establish and work toward their goals, and secure permanent housing that fits their needs.

Physical and Behavioral Health Care – offers young people access to primary health care and individual and group counseling services.

Covenant Works (Employment & Education Services) – prepares young people for success on the job through education assistance, career services, and job readiness training and placement.

Street Outreach and Aftercare Program (SOAP) – reaches young people experiencing homelessness where they congregate, seeking to build trust with hard-to-reach individuals to bring them into coordinated services and provide up to six months of support and guidance as they transition to independent living.

Strategic Priorities & Goals
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Strategic Priorities & Goals

Priority 1:  Expand housing options by creating a long-range plan for the development of a continuum of transitional and permanent housing.


  1. Launch the 19-bed Rights of Passage transitional housing program on the second floor of the Covenant House Illinois Campus on Lake Street.

  2. Develop and implement a new program model for transitional housing that supports a specific, high-need group of young people (ages 18 to 24), driven by data and youth voice.

  3. Create an executable plan for a new permanent housing initiative and launch the associated predevelopment and fundraising processes.


Priority 2:  Develop and sustain innovative programs to respond to the evolving needs of young people experiencing homelessness.


  1. Enhance and expand our continuum of services that are affirming, supportive, and rooted in harm reduction and trauma-sensitive care.

  2. Increase holistic health services and resources to partner with young people to address their physical and emotional wellness.

  3. Develop educational support, workforce skills training, and job placement services for young people.

  4. Create pathways to engage our program alumni in staff and board positions to inform program development.

  5. Leverage data to guide program development and growth.

  6. Become a center of excellence and serve as a thought partner to drive innovation in service delivery.

Priority 3:  Increase organizational sustainability to advance our mission.


  1. Raise awareness of Covenant House Illinois among the general public and philanthropic community.

  2. Diversify funding and expand growth areas including major and planned giving and corporate giving.

  3. Build an operating reserve of at least six months of cash.

  4. Develop infrastructure and standards to guide and sustain the organization’s responsible growth.


Priority 4:  Invest in our people to promote lifelong learning, career development, and the realization of personal potential.



  1. Expand professional development and wellness training opportunities to build employee skills and facilitate high performance.

  2. Maintain high levels of employee engagement, satisfaction, and retention.

Priority 5:  Strengthen community presence and engagement to expand our reach and impact.


  1. Deepen partnerships and collaborations with community-based organization, youth service providers, and city, county and state government agencies. 

  2. Engage young people (current participants and alumni) to support their success and center their voice in the work of Covenant House Illinois.


Priority 6:  Advance diversity, equity and inclusion in our work and organizational culture.


  1. Acknowledge and address racism as a key driver of homelessness.  

  2. Strengthen advocacy efforts to address the root-cause, structural issues that contribute to youth homelessness.

Covenant House Commitment Icon_Dove (sma
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