What would you do if you needed an ID? What if you didn’t have internet to find out how to get one? Or money to pay for one? Or transportation to the place you would have to fill out and file your paperwork? Or what if the person you were asking questions with treated you with total disrespect and disdain when you were trying to find answers to your questions? What about getting bus tokens to get to a job interview if you couldn’t afford them? Or prescriptions for a serious medical or mental health issue if you didn’t have insurance or money to pay out of pocket? Or figuring out how to access services for veterans?
Most of us take for granted the access that we have to a lot of different resources and we don’t really appreciate that we can almost always count on getting straightforward answers to the questions we ask. Most homeless people can’t say the same.
Except when they talk to one of Bridge House’s Case Managers. Heather and Chris are the two full-time, “Jill of All Trades” that work at Bridge House and help their clients with everything from applying for housing to getting doctors appointments to giving out socks and gloves. They see clients who may need Bridge House’s help with a few meals while they’re searching for jobs until they get back on their feet and they see clients who come in every day and who view Chris and Heather as their support system.
Heather, who has been with Bridge House since 2007 has been working with clients to identify needs, solve problems, answer questions and help them with anything and everything you could ever imagine. The oddest request she’s ever heard? “A client once asked me to help get a front door for their RV. That was really funny, but we did find them one!” she says.
When you talk to Heather and Chris, what you see is what you get. They are open, engaging, genuine, and it is very clear that they love what they do and are very good at developing relationships with their clients.
In talking about her philosophy for working with her clients, Heather says, “They know their lives, they know their needs, they know if they’re ready or not and everyone is different. So they’re the driver, I’m just the co-pilot—I help them get where they want to go.” This philosophy really embodies the work of Bridge House as a whole—because the causes of homelessness are impossible to pigeonhole, they help tailor the resources they have to the needs of the clients.
What really stands out about the Case Managers at Bridge House becomes incredibly apparent when Chris says, “I am deeply honored by the trust that we’re given. The clients have a level of trust that they don’t have for many people.” And that trust allows them to help cultivate more opportunities in their clients so that they can move toward self-sufficiency.