Frequently Asked Questions
What is Bridge Communities?
Based in Glen Ellyn, a western suburb of Chicago, Bridge Communities offers transitional housing and support services to homeless families that live and work in DuPage County. Founded in 1988 by community volunteers Mark Milligan and Bob Wahlgren, Bridge has grown to include nearly 100 units of transitional housing and 18 shared-equity home ownership condominium units.
What is transitional housing?
Transitional housing provides apartments, supportive service and a stable environment to homeless families who are working to improve or develop the skills necessary to live independently. This is typically defined by a two-year time period. Bridge Communities works with local faith-based and community action groups that provide mentors and essential financial support. Bridge provides professional case management, education tutoring, career counseling and coaching and donated automobiles.
Who does Bridge Communities serve?
Bridge Communities serves extremely low, low and moderate income families who have become homeless due to reasons such as divorce, domestic violence, loss of employment, and health issues.
Bridge Communities is not appropriate for homeless families that have an extensive history or current substance abuse problem, criminal history or chronic disability.
How long has Bridge Communities been around?
The concept of transitional housing for homeless families in DuPage County began in 1988 when two community volunteers, Bob Wahlgren and Mark Milligan, were motivated to create a better solution to aid homeless families and children. Now in its 27th year, Bridge Communities has expanded its services to include: career counseling, education tutoring for adults and children, financial management skills, life-skills mentoring and auto donation.
How are donations spent?
For the fiscal year 2014, 88% of the operational budget was spent on direct programand supporting services for 108 families, including 113 adults and 192 children. The remaining costs were spent on fundraising costs.
What are the goals of Bridge Communities?
As a non-profit organization, Bridge Communities aims to:
- Inspire and affect change by advocating for homeless families.
- Provide services and opportunities that connect families to a better future.
- Collaborate with faith-based partners, community action groups and businesses to leverage resources and create long-term solutions.
- Lead by example through innovative programs and grass-root involvement.
What is the meaning of an "invisible" homeless person?
For many Americans, the word "homeless" evokes a mental image of a single male with some type of substance abuse or mental health problem loitering in a public place. This is the image of the visible homeless. In reality, the picture of homelessness in America today is a family portrait. Bridge Communities serves the homeless family - the "invisible" homeless. Typically this is a single parent with kids in school that are bouncing from home-to-home of family and friends.
Two trends largely responsible for the rise in family homelessness over the past several years are:
- A growing shortage of affordable rental housing
- A simultaneous increase in poverty
What is the process families go through before they are accepted into the Bridge Communities Transitional Housing Program?
When families come to Bridge Communities, they are carefully screened and once found eligible, connected with a faith-based or community-based Program Partner. After that point, families are provided with safe affordable housing, life-skills mentors, career counseling and coaching, reliable transportation, tutoring for adults and children, and case management.
What is the key to a family's success in the Bridge Communities Transitional Housing Program?
Bridge Communities is an organization about change. Each person involved in the Transitional Housing Program will experience change. The client family must have the desire and be willing to work hard to create long-term change that will give them the skills to be financially independent which will allow for stable housing and a brighter future for their family. Volunteer mentors are at the heart of the Bridge Communities Transitional Housing Program. Mentors will experience a change in their own views on poverty and family homelessness. Every party must have an open heart and a willingness to work hard.
"As a mentor, I feel that I have received more than I have given...the goal of a mentor might be to help families find resources to further their education, get out of debt, and plan for the future, but one soon realizes that it is the social and emotional support that is most essential. Being a mentor has taught me patience, compassion, and perseverance. It has changed my definition of success and increased my gratitude toward family, friends and God."