For homeless kids, the start of the school year is even tougher. There’s lot of anxiety about not having new clothes or supplies to start the school year. And, missing a school day here of there makes it tough to stay on top of school assignments.
Based in Minneapolis, The Bridge for Youth, a 24-hour emergency shelter for 10-17 year olds, is busy. On a September morning, children in the emergency shelter include a 16-year old who missed the first day of school. She was abandoned by her parent a few days before school started. A 14-year old boy, who’s family is homeless, is at The Bridge until his family finds a permanent place to live. Another teen in residence, awaits a move to another state to live with her Grandmother. Home is no longer safe for her here.
Getting these children off to school is a priority for staff at The Bridge. ”Kids see school as their future,” said shelter worker Debbie Schultz. ”Despite challenges at home, they really want to be in school.” Shultz spent the morning calling schools trying to track down homework assignments for kids staying in the Emergency Shelter.
The Bridge for Youth meets the basic needs of children in crisis. Staff greet every child with a warm smile, offering a snack or something to drink. Children share a bedroom with another youth and receive home cooked meals. Transportation is provided to school.
The more challenging work is assessing needs, building repoire, and working with family to repair and mend strained relationships through counseling. Nearly 80% of youth are reunified with family, and of those, 20% continue to access services after their first visit.
Case managers like Debbie Shultz work extra hard with youth who can’t return home. Child Protective Services are contacted and longer term options must be explored. For others, next of kin may might provide an option.
In its 43 year history, The Bridge for Youth has served over 40,000 children. Many return as adults, thanking the organization and its staff for helping ease a difficult adolescence.
Greater Twin Cities United Way contributions provide a significant portion of the agency’s $3 million budget.