PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 30, 2019
Reach of Washington County Launches New Bridge to Change Program
HAGERSTOWN – Reach of Washington County is thrilled to announce that is has launched Bridge to Change, a new program that develops human potential through purposeful work experiences for the homeless. This program helps prepare those who are ready for change to develop confidence and skills to move toward independence. Collaborating with the City of Hagerstown, Reach offers its clients opportunities to work and develop soft skills (confidence, sense of pride, responsibility, and reliability) by cleaning the city of Hagerstown.
“This is truly and exciting time for our clients and our community. We have been working on this project for over a year and it has been a blessing to collaborate with the City and watch this program unfold. We are thankful to have had the opportunity to work directly with Councilwoman Shelley McIntire (who initiated the program) through the process. We are so very proud to be launching a program that focuses on our community and most importantly, our clients.” Dana Jenkins, Executive Director, Reach of Washington County and leader of the Bridge to Change program.
Jenkins stated that Bridge of Change is a pilot program for Reach clients and Cold Weather Shelter residents. Case Managers offer the opportunity to clients based on readiness for change. From there they can enter the program and have strong Case Management support through the program to help them move onto next steps. Case Management is the key to success in this program: Jenkins stated: “When we initially started this program, we knew the most important piece of this program was the individualized support each client would receive. The length of time in the program and the case manager follow-up is tailored to fit the specific needs of each client.”
The program can currently accommodate 4-6 workers per four-hour shift, 2-3 days a week. Hours will expand as the program grows. Eric Deike, Director of Public Works, provided the cleaning supplies to Reach and directs Reach on the areas to clean. Last week, Reach ran two practice runs with Bridge to Change Supervisor, Diana Castle. Castle took out a crew of four that immediately embraced his/her role. Success from those 2 days encouraged Reach to move ahead with the planned launch date of July 30. In those 3 days, the crew covered approximately 6 miles of the city removing about 1500 gallons of trash. Castle has been thrilled with the performance of the crew, she stated: “I am so proud of these workers. They work very hard and take pride in their work.”
When the crew is finished for the day, they come back to Reach to debrief. Jenkins states: “This is the most amazing part. It is difficult to capture in words what the feeling is like in that room. The clients are thrilled to be making a difference in the community. They feel so encouraged when passerby’s and business owners take time to thank them and congratulate them on a job well done.”
Reach invited City Councilwoman, Shelley McIntire to the debrief on July 30, and she was thrilled with the early successes: “My expectations for the success of this program have already been exceeded and we are just getting started! When I spoke with the work team at the debrief, it was clear these individuals felt a true sense of purpose and were incredibly proud of the work they had done. I anticipate great things to come as a result of this program.”
Early success from the program aligns with expectations of the program. There are currently 5 individuals in the program; 4 of which are chronically homeless. In the last week, 3 of the chronically homeless have made significant steps towards independence. “We didn’t expect this so soon, but the support they are receiving and the confidence they are building is making a difference. We can’t wait to see what is in store for them.” – Dana Jenkins
Reach expects to have 50 people participate in the program within a year with the following outcomes: participants entering a job service program or permanent employment, participating in case management services (including Behavioral Health Services, if needed), attaining permanent housing, and participation in Reach’s Financial Literacy program.
Bridge to Change was modeled after a homeless work program in Albuquerque, New Mexico called “There’s a Better Way.” Jenkins spent time over the last 12 months, talking to leaders in cities across the U.S. currently running these programs. Many are run like the NM program and others are quite different. With such a varying degree of programs and so many good ideas Jenkins led collaborative discussions with Councilwoman Shelley McIntire; Jeannie Asbury, Deputy Director of Reach; Jill Zamostny, Director of Housing and Case Management at Reach; and Eric Deike, Director of Public Works City of Hagerstown. Therefore, the team was able to pick and choose from the programs to create Bridge to Change according to the needs and best interests of our community.
“We feel very confident that what we created will be a solid platform to help those that need it as we already collaborate with organizations in the community that specialize in behavioral health services and employment. We are aware that this is a pilot program and we will celebrate the successes and adjust as necessary as we grow the program. Although this program will initially be for Reach’s clients, we plan to branch out and take referrals for homeless adults in the community once we get the program established.” – Dana Jenkins
Bridge to Change is currently funded through the CDBG grant, Wegman’s grant, private donations, and sponsorships. AC&T is the official first sponsor of the program. You can learn more about bridge to change on the website at: http://www.bridgetochangewc.org/ or follow the program on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BridgetoChangeWC
Anyone interested in becoming a program sponsor should contact Dana Jenkins at Dana@reachofwc.org.
Since 1995 Reach of Washington County, a grassroots organization, has worked to prevent and resolve homelessness by serving the homeless and working poor of Washington County. Reach programs range from safety net to self-sufficiency and independence. We provide a seasonal Cold Weather Shelter and year-round Case Management for homeless adults. We also run a Day Resource Center that provides financial assistance to serve those facing crises as well as self-sufficiency programs including Open Table and Financial Literacy classes. You can learn more about Reach programs at: https://reachofwc.org/.
Reach has 1600 volunteers who donate an estimated 15,000 hours of service to the Reach programs annually. During the last shelter season 225 individuals (aged 19-80) slept in the shelter for a total of 6,818 bed nights. 47 of those individuals were placed in permanent housing. Over the last year we assisted 303 families with crisis needs (eviction prevention, first month’s rent, security deposit, emergency utility bills, and imminent needs).