Posts Tagged ‘Convenant House’

Father Ritter and the runaways of Times Square

February 2, 2012

As a young Franciscan priest serving St. Brigid’s Church on Avenue B, Father Bruce Ritter began opening his East Seventh Street apartment to runaway kids who had no place else to go.

From those humble beginnings came Covenant House, which served homeless street youths—first on LaGuardia Place, then in larger quarters near the Port Authority Bus Terminal in the late 1970s.

He described his mission as helping kids “find a way out of the gutters and brothels and strip joints where their young bodies are in demand as objects of pleasure for lustful adults.”

In the 1980s, he was constantly lauded by politicians. Millions in donations flowed in.

Until 1990, that is, when a male hustler accused him of setting him up in an apartment in exchange for sex.

Soon, more young men made similar accusations. Father Ritter then came under fire for financial improprieties.

The Franciscans ordered him to take a leave in 1990. He resigned, denying the allegations.

Later that year, an independent investigation found substantial evidence that he had made sexual advances toward young men associated with Covenant House since the 1970s.

Father Ritter lay low for the rest of his life, dying of cancer in upstate New York in 1999.

Covenant House didn’t end with Father Ritter. It still serves homeless kids here in New York at its West 41st Street shelter as well as in cities across the country.