James Gress bio

James M. Gress, MSW, ACSW

Executive Director, Covenant House Florida

James Gress signed on to serve runaway and homeless youth at Covenant House Florida even before the Fort Lauderdale beachfront facility opened.  He began as an assistant team leader in August of 1985, one month before the first teen arrived at the facility, and rose through the ranks to the executive director post he holds today.

Under Gress’s leadership, Covenant House Florida today reaches nearly 200 youth per day in Fort Lauderdale and Orlando through street outreach, crisis shelters, transitional housing projects and aftercare, making it one of the largest agencies serving runaway youth in the State of Florida.

As a 30-year veteran of Covenant House Florida, Gress experienced firsthand all the milestones of the organization, starting with its opening, to the launch of programs relating to youth education, addiction, health and counseling, to the development of supportive and transitional housing projects, to the opening of a second shelter in Orlando.

Gress’s notable accomplishments at Covenant House Florida include:

  • Overseeing the research, approvals and building of a shelter for homeless and runaway teens in Orlando;
  • Developing and administering the successful Covenant House Addictions Management Project (CHAMP);
  • Securing four years of Centers for Disease Control grant funding for a HIV prevention program targeting homeless youth; and

Prior to becoming Covenant House Florida’s executive director, where he oversees all operations and staff at the Fort Lauderdale and Orlando shelters, Gress served as associate executive director, director of special services, residential social worker, substance abuse counselor/therapist, consultant therapist and assistant team leader.

Before joining Covenant House Florida, Gress provided individual counseling and supervision for up to six adjudicated males under the age of 19 in a residential group home in Pennsylvania.  He then moved to South Florida and worked as a therapist and administrator for a residential facility treating chemically dependent, male adolescents. 

Gress, a Plantation resident, holds a Master’s in Social Work (MSW) from Barry University and a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Criminal Justice Administration from Pennsylvania State University.  He is a member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers and the National Association of Social Workers and has served as a clinical field instructor for Barry University.