One Church, One Family
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The Manual for the Bridge Model of Transitional Housing
Since its founding in 1988, Bridge Communities has served as a model for transitional housing in DuPage County and throughout the Country.
As an organization, Bridge has helped thousands journey to self-sufficiency in partnership with faith-based organizations and community action groups in DuPage County. The Bridge Transitional Housing Program provides apartments, professional case management, supportive services and a stable environment for homeless families who are working on developing the skills necessary to live independently. Bridge Communities' Program Partners provide life-skills mentoring through volunteers and partner with Bridge to share in the financial funding needed to house the family.
Our innovative model has change how DuPage County responds to and helps homeless families in our communities. We would like to share this model across the country. Your organization can make a difference in your community. We can help you begin.
How to Get Your Organization to Sponsor an Apartment
Getting Your Organization to Sponsor an Apartment
Once you have recognized that the problem of homelessness exists in your community, you might ask yourself how you and your group might get involved as part of the solution to this devastating problem. The following questions should be used to determine if transitional housing is an appropriate program in which your group should participate.
Do you and your group understand the problem of homelessness as it now exists in your community?
Ask your minister how many times someone comes to the church during the week looking for assistance to buy food or pay for housing or transportation. Check with your local shelters to find out how many people stay in shelters each night and how many of them are families. Call your local domestic violence shelter and find out how long women and children can stay at the shelter. Almost certainly, you will find there is a larger problem in your community than there are resources available to provide assistance.
Does your community have a history of outreach to the community?
If it does, this may be an ideal way for you to expand that tradition. Does your organization have a record of doing "hands-on" work like operating a food pantry, clothing bank, or a resale shop? Any of these activities would indicate your organization's possible interest in transitional housing.
Would a transitional housing program fit within the mission of your organization?
There are two ways of helping people. You can spend a little bit of money on each of the people you help, let's say enough to feed them for one day or provide one night's shelter for a family at a motel. Or, you can spend a lot of money on one family, enough to really change that family's life. We like to equate this to giving a woman a fish or teaching that woman to fish. In the first instance, when you give the family enough money for food for one day, what are they to do tomorrow? Will they come back to your organization looking for more money for another day's food? In the second instance, when you really spend the money to change a family's life, they are far less apt to return looking for a way to solve another short-term crisis.
Most organizations sponsor ministries or programs which lean heavily toward solving a short term crisis.
A healthier model might be to have some short-term, crisis-driven ministries and programs, along with a transitional housing program to provide long-term, permanent solutions.
What are the most important first steps?
First, gather a small but dedicated group of people who believe in the work you are thinking about undertaking. The leadership or sponsoring organization needs a "champion" who will move the project forward, and the "champion of the project" needs a group of dedicated people to support her/him as she/he moves forward.
Second, educate your organization's members, volunteers, staff and others about what homelessness looks like in your community, how it affects the families who become homeless, and what a transitional housing program can do.
How will we pay for this?
For many faith-based groups and even some community organizations, a transitional housing program is its most expensive program. The most important thing to remember is that it is possible for a group to raise the money if they are convinced the program is appropriate for the organization. Worry about the money after the decision is made to move forward with this ministry to the homeless. The money will follow your good works.
Why should your group be doing this work instead of another local social service agency?
- If homelessness still exists in your community, the resources within your community are unable to handle the whole job.
- Many of us find that it is our responsibility to reach out to those living in poverty within our community.
- This work will be good for the life of the local faith-based and community action group, the mentors working with the families, and the team supporting the mentors.
The time spent prior to opening your first transitional housing apartment should be one of reflection, prayer and education. You should be thinking about what your responsibility to the poor in your community is, and praying about how you can best respond to that responsibility.
"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."