The Big Picture : Creating coordinated pathways for homeless men and women to leave the streets behind
In order for Bridge House to have the impact we need to on helping our clients reach the highest level of self-sufficiency possible, we must create a continuum of complementary services to engage people where they are and help them progress. To do so, Bridge House is taking the lead in creating a Resource Center for homeless individuals in Boulder. This will be an extension of what we currently do and will involve more emphasis on creating a single entry point to both identify what people need and ensure they are linked with the right service. We will create a “one stop shop” model to bring providers to one location to deliver their programming and engage homeless clients into their services – such as mental health treatment, education, and substance abuse counseling. This Resource Center will also allow Bridge House to expand our employment programming.
To make this Resource Center a reality, Bridge House will be taking the lead to coordinate with complementary service providers to develop a pilot for fall 2012.
The back story –
In Boulder we have many resources but they are not yet working to capacity to move people out of homelessness. We at Bridge House observe that there are two primary reasons for this disconnect.
First, we as a community lack an effective and efficient way to help homeless people access what they need in terms of services. We do not have a single intake and assessment point for both homeless people to find what they need, but also for service providers to truly understand and document the diversity of the homeless men and women in Boulder.
Second, we are lacking both employment opportunities and affordable housing in Boulder. With the launch of our Ready to Work transitional employment program, Bridge House is a lead agency in Boulder providing employment services to homeless individuals. A continuum of programs from practical job readiness services, to intensive transitional jobs, which will lead to mainstream employment, and will help more homeless people access employment by providing them with a platform to reenter the workforce.
Ready to Work is the signature program of Bridge House’s employment services. Ready to Work applies a business approach toward solving increasingly difficult and expensive social problems – homelessness, joblessness, and criminal recidivism. Ready to Work creates paid transitional work opportunities as the core element of a comprehensive program providing a pathway to independence for homeless men and women. Ready to Work strives to improve lives, save resources, and improve the community while running sustainable, competitive business ventures. The visibility of transitional work changes perceptions of employers about the level of willingness and skill of those who are homeless.
With better preparation and access to employment, able-bodied, work-ready homeless individuals will be able to become contributing, tax-paying members of our community with income to be able to enter the housing market.
In terms of housing, though we do not currently develop housing, Bridge House recognizes that housing is a key ingredient in addressing homelessness but not every homeless person needs a unit built just for them. Rather, we need to create a continuum of initiatives beginning with homelessness prevention, including incentives for landlords to offer affordable rents.
Boulder needs more housing resources for the homeless including a continuum of – year-round emergency shelter, program-specific transitional housing, affordable housing (both in the private market and through the Boulder Housing Authority), HUD-funded voucher programs including Shelter Plus Care, Housing First and Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing, as well as project based Housing First for the most chronically homeless.
Bridge House supports smart housing policy that faces the realities of the lack of affordable housing options in Boulder County and reflects the diverse needs of the homeless population. Policies and programming must be complementary, access to housing must be coordinated in an effective and efficient manner across agencies.
Here is what we can do:
• Advocate for more affordable housing
• Support employment for homeless people
• Help the community to understand that in order for us to address homelessness we need policy and programming to be coordinated