COVENANT HOUSE: Lifeline to the Street by Bruce Ritter

COVENANT HOUSE: Lifeline to the Street

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A moving and startling collection of newsletters written over the last 15 years by Father Bruce Ritter, the Franciscan priest who masterminded the Covenant House shelters for homeless children. In 1966, Ritter was a teacher at Manhattan College who found himself shocked when a student asked whether he was really fulfilling his ministry. Within two years he'd moved to the mean streets of the Lower East Side; the idea for Covenant House began when ten homeless children showed up at Ritter's door, asking for shelter. By 1972, he was officially established, and began sending out newsletters to his wide-ranging flock, begging for everything from bedsheets to soap to money. The newsletters, anecdotal in form, are really little parables--Ritter is a modern-day Father Flanagan who knows there's such a thing as a bad boy (he's seen it time and again), but doesn't let that stop him: ""And then he rang his dismal leper's bell as he had learned he had to do--to warn me: 'I'm a hustler,' he said, and watched me carefully with a total awareness that made me afraid."" With his present-day headquarters (staffed by volunteers who work for $10.00 per week) near the ""Forty. Deuce"" (42nd street), Ritter is primarily concerned about the effect of sexual exploitation on runaway children. He tells story after story of kids dragooned into prostitution and porn films, and includes a chilling transcript of a tape recording of a conversation between a sadistic pimp and his adolescent whore. In all, a hopeful look at the bleak, almost Dickensian underside of big city life--hopeful only because a man as dedicated as Ritter is out there trying to save some of its young victims.

Pub Date: Oct. 2nd, 1987
Publisher: Doubleday