Bridges to Independence assistance housing programs.

The main goal of Bridges to Independence is to assist the homeless as well as prevent it. The non-profit provides several services in an effort to do this. Some of them, such as the innovative Adopt-a-Family Rapid Re-Housing Program, will help a resident find and move into a new apartment. They also support children from low income families via b2i Runs and other resources.

Much of the financial aid from Bridges to Independence is provided from their emergency shelter and rehousing program. When it comes to the short term housing, or the shelter, this will last for three to four months, and it is part of the Sullivan House.

One or two-bedroom apartments are made available to families in Arlington coping with challenges. They help resident that are impacted by eviction, domestic violence, substance abuse, medical conditions, trauma from a spouse, unemployment, school issues, parenting problems, and other challenges.

In addition to providing shelter, the b2i Sullivan House provides support services and guidance as families from Alexandria or Arlington Virginia work toward making the transition into stable housing and greater self-sufficiency. Program services include, but are not limited to, financial aid for first months rent, intensive assessment, counseling, debt reduction advice, and referral.

One of the non-profit most important programs assists with financial literacy as well as money management, including budget creation and maintenance. This intensive program from a case manager will take into account all allocation of wages and government benefits the client receives.

The Sullivan House shelter is effective. The majority of families that take part are able to move into longer-term rentals somewhere in Virginia. They are also able to continue their participation in other b2i services.

Another service, the Adopt-a-Family Rapid Re-Housing Program, can assist and support lower income families as they transition out of emergency shelters into stable, secure housing. There may be grants for paying rental costs or security deposits, case management, and other support given in the most timely manner possible. The program provides a solid foundation for their success, enlisting the help of an array of local churches, non-profit agencies and individual community volunteers.





Many of these different groups will even “adopt” the struggling families to help them meet various needs. These generous families or charities will offer gently used apartment furnishings, kitchen appliances, transportation or other support. This is given to he homeless as well as foreign-born families to help them acclimate to and learn about the United States.

Bridges to Independence will help these immigrants understand the American currency, provide them free food, home appliances, and so on. Rapid Re-Housing's services are also based on providing money-management skills that include maintaining a budget allocating 30 percent of household income to rent; career development; as well as job training or access to gainful employment. All of this ongoing support from the non-profit leads to greater financial responsibility and will break the cycle of homelessness. It will also help the client with the establishment of good credit, and long term goals may be owning or leasing a home.

Further assistance is available in the form of advocacy with local Alexandria based property managers and landlords on clients' behalf. Staff members from the coalition will also help clients with application process for accessing rent subsidies and other financial assistance. b2i also offers annual workshops that cover the process of purchasing a home, helping dozens of families from northern Virginia with becoming homeowners since the establishment of the Rapid Re-Housing Service.

Ongoing advice from Bridges to Independence

Arguably the most important factor in many of the lower income b2i clients' efforts to become self-sufficient is to be thoroughly prepared to enter the job market. The charity will help clients gain the skills and find a job for living-wage employment. Case managers assist those who need to learn the process from the ground up by providing them with individual job skills, finding job openings, interpersonal workplace skills, submitting applications for a job, and so on.

The non-profit will also help those who, while they have accumulated some good work experience and have had success in the world of work. Clients of the Bridges to Independence program will be shown how to upgrade current skills or develop new ones. The non-profit will always work to meet clients where they are currently living.

The case manager from Arlington-Alexandria Coalition for the Homeless will provide job readiness classes, what they need to get where they want to go, and help them develop proper written and verbal communications. The process will also incorporate occupational assessment, career counseling, mentoring, vocational training and more.





B2i case managers work to help them client build their financial knowledge and skills, placing strong emphasis on debt reduction as well as overall household budgeting. Other classes in Arlington County include credit building and repair. Additionally, in close partnership with the Virginia Cooperative Extension Service, case managers from the non-profit will also provide training in all aspects of money management. These services are held on an ongoing basis. They will also be supplemented with workshops, guest speakers  and targeted sessions for children and youth.

Kids from both low income as well as homeless families in Arlington are introduced to the healthy lifestyle concept through our b2i Runs Program. It is open to youth of all ages. To date, this running club has organized and carried 5k races and other activities. The kids have won awards and gain the benefit of enjoying the thrill of success with teammates.

Bridges to Independence After-School Tutoring Program volunteers, many of whom lived in Alexandria and nearby towns and hold advanced degrees, work with students in one-on-one and small-group settings. They will help the student complete homework assignments, gain new educational skills or explore advanced subject matter.

For participants of the B2I services who have come from other countries, mentors as well as the local tutors also make use of specialized techniques for improving English language skills or obtaining a GED. The intent of these services for immigrants is to provide customized academic support to meet individual needs.

Support for Kids in Transition (SKIT) was created to provide holiday support as well as other fun for the children and youth. It is for the youth that are currently residing in b2i’s Sullivan House Emergency Shelter. On a regular basis, shelter volunteers organize activities that might include Christmas parties, birthday parties, Thanksgiving meals, crafting, or games. Children can also access books, use computers,  and board games. Field trips for northern Virginia are also held.

Anyone facing eviction or that is homeless can call upon Bridges to Independence. The address is 3103 9th Road, North, Arlington, VA 22201. Call (703) 525.7177 for information.



By Jon McNamara

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