Reach of Washington County Partnering with City of Hagerstown to Provide Job Opportunities to the Homeless
HAGERSTOWN, MD – Reach of Washington County is thrilled to launch 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 enter a job services program or permanent employment.
“We are very excited about partnering with the city and supporting our community’s most vulnerable population towards independence” said Dana Jenkins, Reach’s Executive Director.
Jenkins stated that Bridge to Change is a pilot program for Reach Cold Weather Shelter residents and clients. The program will begin in late-spring/early-summer. Case Managers at Reach will select Reach clients based on readiness for change to participate in the program. Reach will work with the Department of Public Works each week to address areas of the city that need to be cleaned up. A supervisor will take a team of 4-6 program participants to work in the areas designated by the City. The team will work in four-hour shifts, three days a week. The team will return to Reach to journal and work with case managers on additional services and support.
Reach expects to have 50 participants in the program within the first year. The anticipated program outcomes include: participants entering a job service program or permanent employment, participating in case management services, 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.” There’s a Better Way was developed in 2015 with a partnership between a homeless service organization and the City of Albuquerque. At the origin, the City provided $50,000 toward the program to buy a van and pay panhandlers to work. Since the inception of the program There’s a Better Way has experienced the following successes: 1) They engaged 1744 unduplicated workers, totaling 7545 jobs in NM through 8/31/18; 2) 24% sought out employment and 80 individuals secured permanent employment; 3) 23 households were placed into stable housing and; 4) 22% engaged with the Behavioral Health Department for either mental health or substance abuse treatment options. The FY18 budget for the program increased to $375,473. Furthermore, 15 other cities across the U.S. have modeled a program off of the NM’s program.
Jenkins spent time over the last 6 months, talking to leaders in cities across the U.S. currently running similar 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, in conjunction with Councilwoman Shelley McIntire; Jeannie Asbury, Deputy Director of Reach; and Jill Zamostny, Director of Housing and Case Management at Reach, created 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 and we are very eager to get it started. 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 all homeless adults in the community once we get the program established.”
Jenkins and Councilwoman McIntire have discussed the program with a few community leaders and the support has been overwhelmingly positive. They are preparing to tour across the city talking with many about the program. If you are interested in meeting with them, please contact Dana Jenkins at [email protected].
The program will be funded through grants and gifts from private donors. Reach has already applied to several grants including CDBG funding. Anyone interested in becoming a donor for the program should contact Dana Jenkins at [email protected].
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. 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: http://bit.ly/2PP6vDC.
Reach has 1600 volunteers who donate an estimated 15,000 hours of service to the Reach programs annually. During the last shelter season 213 individuals (aged 18-75) slept in the shelter for a total of 6,664 bed nights. Over the last year we assisted 254 families to avoid eviction and/or get into independent housing, 38 people were provided emergency lodging placements, 57 were assisted with emergency utility bills and many more were provided a variety of imminent needs.