2018 Successes and Challenges
With success comes challenges... and challenges breed opportunities for creativity and innovation. This is the Bridge House view.
In 2018 we had several notable successes and face significant challenges. We are leveraging both to find solutions.
Here are just 3 examples
Thank you for being part of our solutions.
1. Success – In 2018, Bridge House successfully replicated our award-winning, “work-first” Ready to Work program in Aurora, CO. After many successful years of operating in Boulder, Ready to Work Aurora opened in late 2018 expanding RTW’s presence in Metro Denver from a capacity of 44 in Boulder to 94 in the region. We are more than doubling the size of our landscaping social enterprise; we have added our 22,000 square foot Ready to Work House in Aurora to our housing portfolio; we have 17 new staff positions; and capacity for 50 Ready to Work trainees.
Challenge – We see this growth as an exciting opportunity to expand our impact. However, there are inevitable growing pains. Bridge House has more than quadrupled in size in the last five years. Our Budget has grown from $942,000 to $5,669,750 and full-time staff from less than 30 to 76 in 2019. This growth is due to adding housing and employment capacity for 94 Ready to Work trainees, by expanding the capacity of Community Table Kitchen and by assuming the role of navigation shelter provider for the City of Boulder through Path to Home. We understand the importance of managing our scale in order to protect our culture and ensure our positive outcomes.
Solution – To handle this growth we sought support from experienced entrepreneurs who have come before us. We have been working diligently on systems using technology to create efficiencies. We have invested in staff training and operations. Now that we run four programs across two cities we are proactively working on more sophisticated systems of communication and training to standardize what we do. We are utilizing our Salesforce database to better track and analyze both our programs and our business practices to make them more efficient and effective through automated communication and dashboards. We are using Google Drive to make our program procedures and manuals more accessible.
2. Success – We opened Path to Home as the first and only basic needs program for adults experiencing homelessness open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Path to Home is Bridge House’s navigation sheltering program that provides walk up, emergency shelter coupled with housing-centric case management to quickly help clients find alternative housing solutions. Path to Home is the culmination of years of work of Bridge House and community partners dating back to the Homeless Services Collaborative convened by The Community Foundation in 2013. Path to Home is a cornerstone of the new Homeless Solutions for Boulder County and demonstrates the importance of accessible services of a 24/7 program to help clients stabilize and exit homelessness. Bridge House has been a leader in shaping a new approach to shelter in Boulder and, in 2018, was successful in locating a building for Path to Home, creating positive community relationships and negotiating with the City of Boulder to fund services. Path to Home serves up to 60 unique clients a month in shelter, meals and case management and achieves 25-30 positive outcomes a month including housing placements, family reunification, and relocation at the request of clients.
Challenge – Our location at 2691 30th Street is only temporary. Therefore, there is a need for the community to develop a long-term plan for basic needs and navigation services called for in the County plan. The current Path to Home site is slated to be developed into affordable housing. Our lease expires in May of 2020.
Solution – We will work collaboratively with our partners options for the future of navigation services including analyzing the scope of services needed, the target client population and, of course, possible locations. Bridge House has consistently communicated the need for more integration among basic needs services.
3. Success – At Bridge House, we believe we can end homelessness one person at a time. Yet, to do so, we must constantly look for creative ideas to create housing that is affordable and sustainable for our client base. There will never be enough vouchers or government subsidies. One success includes the Bridge House and Congregation Har HaShem partnership launched in 2018 to provide housing to six successful graduates of the Ready to Work program. Bridge House has master leased two houses owned by Har HaShem and managed by Boulder Property Management. The rooms are rented to graduates of Ready to Work with full-time, mainstream jobs who also receive aftercare case management. Because, finding affordable housing in Boulder is difficult for anyone making less than 30% of area median income, who has experienced homelessness or has an eviction record, we wanted to create a creative housing model that creates more stock for those transitioning out of homelessness within the existing market. Through privately-raised funds we were able to fund both the subsidy required for the units to be affordable and for the services to support the pilot for a year. The partnership represents an innovative way to provide affordable housing without the significant investment or time to build new residential units which is particularly difficult in Boulder where available land is scarce and expensive.
Challenge – How can we scale innovative ideas like this one? We need to not only develop the model but we need to convince traditional funders that it makes sense to fund non traditional ideas in order to scale ideas that work. Given our regional, even national, crisis of affordable housing, we need to advocate for ideas like this one by demonstrating the positive return on investment and impact that seek to create pathways off the street for sub sets of the homeless population that are largely ignored yet have the capacity to be successful.
Solution – We are working with our partners at the City and County to highlight this model as an enhancement to existing efforts. We hope to demonstrate the benefit small amounts of flexible funding can have when deployed strategically. We are seeking other landlords who could benefit from this win/win arrangement.