Frequently Asked Questions
What is Bridge Communities?
Based in Glen Ellyn, a western suburb of Chicago, Bridge 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 services and a stable environment to homeless families who are working to improve or develop the skills necessary to live self-sufficiently. 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 26th year, Bridge Communities has expanded its services to include: career counseling, educational tutoring for adults and children, financial management skills, life-skills mentoring and auto donation.
How are donations spent?
For the fiscal year 2013, 83% of the operational budget was spent on direct program services for 109 families, including 121 adults and 206 children. Administrative costs were 6% with the remainder spent on fundraising costs.
What are the goals of Bridge Communities?
As a non-profit organization, Bridge Communities mission is 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 program and grassroots 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 a family goes through before being accepted into the Bridge Communities Transitional Housing Program?
When a family comes to Bridge Communities, they are carefully screened and, once found eligible, connected with a faith-based or community-based Program Partner. After that point, the family is 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 willingness 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 the whole 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.
Bridge Communities' Auto Donation Program helps client families get back on the road to self-sufficiency. Donated vehicles help client families have safe transportation to get to work and to transport their kids to school and child care. In 2013, 39 cars were donated to Bridge client families.