My first week at Bridge House: Impressions of Community and Opportunity

Isabel McDevitt, Executive Director

March 5: it’s 9:00AM – a new day at Bridge House. During the morning rush, clients come in for their morning coffee and conversation. To many it is just another day but to me it’s the beginning of a whole new chapter.

I am instantly struck by the sense of community. I overhear a woman, only 2 weeks homeless after a nasty divorce, asking the gentleman to her right about where she can find help locating her birth certificate. She is putting her life back together. I observe a young man, no more than 20, holding the door and smiling good morning to Robert – a long time client struggling with Parkinson disease. I am absorbed into the mix and welcomed.

I engage in one on one conversation – Montel is recently homeless with experience in landscaping, he wants to work and applies for our transitional work program – Ready to Work. Jim, an ex-Marine homeless for 3 years, opens up. He is learning, learning how to handle his temper after years of trauma. He comes to Bridge House’s recovery support meetings and is hopeful, so am I. Ron glows as he describes his long – but successful – search for housing and how, thanks to the support of Bridge House, he has been off the streets for a year.

There are so many stories and I soak them in.

My first week was inspiring and I am left with many impressions – the most important of which are the importance of community and the need for opportunity.

A community of dignity and respect is the cornerstone of Bridge House. We are in this together. There is a family-like atmosphere at Bridge House where clients, staff and volunteers treat each other with compassion and care. Bridge House is the front door, the entry point for many people to get help. Beyond the building, I also see a community of services providers with a shared goal – to help homeless individuals improve their lives. I have been welcomed into this community as well and am eager to collaborate and continue to fight homelessness in Boulder.

Opportunity is what’s missing for many homeless men and women. I have long subscribed to the idea that the best way to help people is to create opportunities for them to help themselves. Listen to the clients at Bridge House and many will agree. Providing someone with a chance to improve their own life and empowering them with the tools to do so – such as job readiness skills or sobriety services– is what creates lasting success. The need for opportunity – particularly around employment – is great in Boulder. We must focus more attention on creating a hand up, not a hand out for the many homeless men and women eager to make a change, striving to be independent. We must also remain mindful of balancing the diverse needs and challenges faced by homeless men and women we serve. This balance is both necessary to meet the range of needs presented by homeless people, and achievable through partnership and innovation.

I am humbled and honored to have joined such an amazing team and look forward to a brighter future for the homeless in Boulder. Stay tuned.


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