[Featured Non-Profit]: Bridge Over Troubled Waters
Bridge Over Troubled Waters (Bridge) is a Downtown Boston based non-profit organization that has been in existence for almost a half century, battling to prevent long-term homelessness for vulnerable youths so they may become self-sufficient.
Since 1970, Bridge has strived to provide life changing services for homeless and high-risk youth from the ages of 14 to 24.
Currently, the non-profit works with over 2,000 youth on an annual basis primarily in the cities of Boston and Cambridge. However, the organization is not strict on its geographic boundaries and serves youth in jeopardy from outside of those areas.
Bridge has 70 employees, ranging from full to part-time. Twelve of their staff work in administration with the remainder being program staff that provide case management and counseling. The organization has the support of 200 volunteers every year that assist in carrying out their mission.
Bridge is based on West Street, right beside Boston Common where one of their important programs, Street Outreach and Mobile Medical Van, takes place.
“Street Outreach staff are individuals who are on foot walking the city streets connecting with people,” shares Melissa Cording, Director of Development at Bridge. “They’re doing that at different points throughout the day. They’re going into adult shelters, they’re working with the staff there. They’re finding people who are under the twenty-five-age range to connect them with age-appropriate programs here at Bridge.”
The Street Outreach workers direct youth towards the Mobile Medical Van at Boston Common which is in the public park from 5-6.30pm seven days a week. The same vehicle moves to Harvard Square in Cambridge after the Common every night and is parked there for a similar 90 minute period.
The Mobile Medical Van, the first program of its kind in the United States, provides youth with food, drink, hygiene products, bandages and several other necessary products. “Youth can come on the van, receive some of those items and speak with our Outreach team but they can also see a medical professional,” Melissa informs. “That’s either a doctor or a nurse practitioner who are on the van during those specified hours. The back part of the van closes off and there is a medical clinic in there.”
The bulk of Bridge’s programs take place at their building on West Street. When youth first arrive to Bridge, they go to the Drop-In Center where they can have a meal, take a shower and do some laundry.
The organization provides a safe place for youth to spend their afternoons with the Transitional Day Program (TDP). There are usually 50 people availing of this program at a time. Just like the Drop-In Center, the TDP provides youth with food, access to shower and laundry facilities and the chance to play games such as pool.
“It’s a safe place to do homework and they can receive help,” says Melissa. “They can receive connections to all other parts of Bridge while they’re here. At night, that becomes our Welcome Center.
“Our Welcome Center is a place where youth can receive safe, overnight, age appropriate accommodation. A lot of the youth that we serve are hesitant, and we offer a non-threatening option for them to stay overnight in the city of Boston. We have fourteen beds there. That number will go up during the winter and particularly during storm emergencies.”
The Welcome Center used to be open between November 1 and April 1. However, 2018 became the first year that the center was open during the summer due to an increased demand.
After the Welcome Center, Bridge provides the Emergency Residence program at West Street. This is where individuals can receive stable overnight accommodation, with most young people remaining in this facility for seven to nine months.
The Education and Career Development Program at the organization has a three-tiered approach; high school equivalency degree, College Pathways and Career Development.
“They’re purposely all together because we don’t want youth to ever think of their high school equivalency degree as the end goal. That’s the start. The end goal is self-sufficiency and independence and economic empowerment.”
In Brighton, the non-profit has the Transitional Living Program (TLP) and the Single Parent House (SPH). The TLP facility houses up to 14 youth at a time with Bridge staff available on a 24/7 basis. The SPH accommodates 11 mothers who are either expecting or parenting.
Bridge expanded their services in May 2018 with the purchase of a house in Dorchester with the aid of the Liberty Mutual Foundation. The place, aptly named Liberty House, has eight rooms.
“It’s meant to be a safe place for our youth to take that next step on to their own independent life. The youth there are advancing their education or career.
“It’s hard to get an apartment anywhere in Boston unless you have that good landlord reference. We help them build up their credit, allowing them to live in a safe location and something that’s within their financial means.”
Bridge has an annual operating budget of $5 million. They receive support from the Boston Foundation and Bank of America but also host events such as an annual gala and the Bridge 2 the Future fundraiser. The Bridge 2 the Future event is held in November at City Winery as part of National Youth Homelessness Awareness Month. Tickets are priced at $75 and sponsorships range from $1,000 to $10,000.
“It is an introduction for many people and a way that they can come and support the work that we do and find out more about youth homelessness, its causes and what the work Bridge is doing. It’s meant to be an educational and fun night to raise awareness and funds for Bridge.”
Image Attribute: Bridge Over Troubled Waters