Living Columns & Blogs

Bridge of Hope works with Centre County’s homeless

Bridge of Hope Centre County offers a holistic, long-term program by providing a solution to homelessness for our clients.

Our program model is a three-way partnership that includes a single woman and her children, a professionally trained case manager employed by Bridge of Hope and a group of six to ten neighboring volunteers who leverage their resources to provide tangible support and encouragement to the families.

Diversity and inclusion are core fundamentals of our program. Clients can be part of our program regardless of age, race, ethnicity, faith and life experiences. We do not judge but rather offer support and hope to our clients to end the despair of homelessness.

Unlike some local community agencies that offer transitional services, Bridge of Hope requires a long-term commitment. Clients enter our program for an 18-24-month period. Our first priority is to help them find stable and safe housing. We offer a rental subsidy that is tailored to meet the client’s needs and ability to pay. With the help of a case manager, we assist them in finding stable employment to help them become independent and improve their quality of life. The case manager is involved during the entire program length to help them build additional skills in all areas of life. Within the first few months of the program, we connect the client with a group of neighboring volunteers who provide emotional support and guidance.

The cost of rent in Centre County is not inexpensive. Housing expense for rentals in the State College area is 14 percent higher than the average rental expense in Pennsylvania. Many of our clients need to reside in the State College area to obtain employment and child care. As such, their incomes need to be able to support the higher cost of living. Our clients might not own a car or have an unreliable vehicle, which limits employment opportunities.

The “face of homelessness” in Centre County is hard to see. Many of us define homelessness as the people we see sleeping on benches or in parks. Sadly, that represents less than 10 percent of the homeless. What we don’t see are the clients that sleep in their cars, staying with friends or family who may not want them there or those in shelters. Frequently, we receive phone calls from mothers living in a car with her children or “couch surfing” from home to home. The face of “homelessness” is tragic and difficult to overcome. Our program at Bridge of Hope can help mothers and her children move out of despair and gradually transition to a higher quality of life.

For more information, call 237-4673 or visit www.centre.bridgeofhopeinc.org.

Dennis Fetzer is the executive director of Bridge of Hope Centre County, which is a United Way partner organization.

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