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Former homeless youths put on path to success thanks to Rights of Passage program at Covenant House

CIBC contributes $75,000 for another full-year of support; bank's total financial support to Covenant House Toronto now stands at nearly $900,000 since 2000

TORONTO, Dec. 16 /CNW/ - After dropping out of school and developing drug problems, Stephen has finally made it. At 24, he was found on a park bench by an outreach worker and offered shelter at Covenant House. Within two months, he moved from the crisis shelter to the "Rights of Passage" long-term residential program. Now he's got a steady job, where he was recently promoted, and will soon be leaving Covenant House for an independent life.

Rights of Passage provides the structure and space for youth to find their own identity and hope for a future.

Today, CIBC announced a donation of $75,000 furthering its commitment as the main supporter of the Rights of Passage program. This brings the bank's total financial support to Covenant House to nearly $900,000 since 2000.

"I'm a changed person," said Stephen. "Covenant House can make you feel renewed. If it wasn't for Covenant House, I wouldn't have a future, certainly not a full-time job and the chance to finish my education.

"When I got to Covenant House, I needed to get stabilized. Once I did, I went job hunting and landed a job, where I got promoted to a supervisory role, and plan to stay until I go back to university.

"Today, I'm at the tail end of the Rights of Passage program. I'll be moving out in February after just over a year here. I've saved money and got my debts under control, and I'm seeing a youth counselor. Once I've paid off my debts, I want to reapply for university to get my degree, likely in Philosophy.

"Rights of Passage shouldn't be missed. It's set up so that there's stability and support all the time. They are always there for you. I realize now that I have skills that I didn't know I had. I'm a stabilized and settled person, thanks to Rights of Passage. It really made a difference in my life."

Up to 28 young people, aged 18 to 24, who are working or continuing their education and working part time, can have a room of their own at Covenant House for up to 15 months. Youth who qualify for this program learn life skills like household chores and banking and they save money to prepare themselves to be on their own.

Tom Woods, Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Risk Officer of CIBC and a board member of Covenant House since 2001, said: "CIBC's relationship with Covenant House dates back to its founding in 1982. I think the secret to Covenant House's success is the way in which the staff and volunteers relate to the kids and inspire them to succeed."

"We are most grateful for the generous, ongoing support of CIBC to our longer-term residence," says Ruth daCosta, Covenant House Executive Director. "Over the past five years, CIBC has played a critical role in helping more young people to successfully move to independence through this program."

About Covenant House Toronto

As Canada's largest youth shelter, Covenant House opens doors of opportunity and hope to 4,000 homeless youth annually. More than just a place to stay, we provide 24/7 crisis care and have the widest range of services under one roof, including education, counselling, health care and employment assistance.

About CIBC

CIBC is committed to supporting causes that matter to our clients, our employees and our communities. We aim to make a difference in communities through corporate donations, sponsorships and the volunteer spirit of employees. With a strategic focus on youth, education and health, and employee commitment to causes including the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation CIBC Run for the Cure, the CIBC Children's Foundation and United Way, we are investing in the social and economic development of communities across the country. In 2009, almost $27 million was contributed through the CIBC group of companies to charitable and non-profit initiatives in Canada, supporting a wide variety of national, regional and local organizations. To learn more, visit

For further information: Doug Maybee, Director, External Communications and Media Relations, CIBC, Tel: (416) 980-7458,