Our 2016 annual report is now ready to view or download here: FY16 annual report
We Help Youth in Crisis.
Updated mission, vision and organizational values
Earlier this summer, The Bridge’s staff took some time to reflect. Working together, we developed a new mission and vision statement for The Bridge for Youth, and redefined organizational values. These new statements blend our past and our present while envisioning a bright new future.
Mission: To provide runaway and homeless youth safe shelter, assist in the prevention and resolution of family conflicts and reunify families whenever possible.
Vision: The Bridge for Youth will be a premier resource for diverse populations of youth and families needing help by offering:
– Support that empowers
– Safe shelter
– Sustainable tools for success and restoration of relationships
– When possible, reunification.
Focus – Our commitment to youth and families drives everything we do.
Excellence – We are relentless in our pursuit of greatness.
Service – Our mission will be at the core of every decision we make.
Village – We cannot do this alone and are part of a broader web committed to protecting runaway and homeless youth.
Integrity – We meet our commitments and are ethical, responsible stewards of our resources.
Teamwork – All of us are part of a team and each of us individually will do everything we can to make sure the entire team succeeds.
Rooted – We will be nimble and adaptable while maintaining our core.
Inclusive – Diversity in thought, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, economic status, political orientations and ideas is our greatest resource.
Bold – We are not afraid to ask hard questions and face difficult realities.
Lighthouse – The clients we serve may be in crisis but our organization will not operate from a crisis point of view.
The Bridge for Youth’s 2017 Annual Fundraiser to Benefit Runaway and Homeless Youth
The Bridge for Youth Announces Hiring of Jennifer Harding as Director of Development
The Bridge for Youth are pleased to announce that Jennifer Harding will be joining us as our new Director of Development! Jenny brings to The Bridge for Youth (Th Bridge) more than 20 years of experience in nonprofit development and fundraising. Her experience includes having served as the Development Director at the Children’s Law Center, MELD and WATCH. In addition, she has served as a Gifts Officer for Augustana Care, the Associate Director of Corporate Giving for the Guthrie Theater and Development Manager at the Page Education Foundation among other positions. Her wide-ranging experience includes consulting with and working for organizations committed to legal services, human services and education. Jenny also has volunteered in various capacities in the nonprofit sector. Jenny holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Dartmouth College. When she is not at work, Jenny enjoys spending time with friends and family including her rescue dog Jackson. She is particularly passionate about child welfare, youth issues and social justice and is excited to be joining The Bridge! Jenny will be a great asset to The Bridge for Youth and its fundraising efforts, we look forward to her starting her new position in mid-August.
Alisha Olson Manages the “Epicenter” of The Bridge
Since 400SAFE’s launch in October, Alisha and her staff have received over 5,000 text exchanges similar to Mary’s text conversation. Some of these texts can go on for hours and often times youth text back another day to check in.
As the supervisor of the YRC, Alisha oversees all the activity that happens in the YRC including recruiting, training and supervising over 40 staff and volunteers. Because the first point of contact clients have with The Bridge is the YRC, it has been referred to as the “epicenter” of The Bridge.
Alisha started as an intern working in the Emergency Shelter Program, then after a temporary stint as a Case Manager Float, was hired as a full time Case Manager before being promoted to Supervisor of the YRC.
She knew she wanted to go into social work at the beginning of her freshman year at Augsburg College.
“Growing up, my grandparents were always caregivers to my mother and our family, but also for my uncle who has a developmental disability, explains Alisha. “From a young age my grandparents created a value in me of helping others. I thought the natural thing to do would be to go into social work.”
Alisha’s previous practicum during her undergrad was at the Fair School Downtown, where she was supervised by the Social Worker overseeing K-3 and 9-12th grade students. In this position, she lead empowerment groups, co-facilitated a college readiness group, and did individual check-ins with students who needed additional support with academics or with family conflict.
Looking to the future, Alisha knows the 400SAFE will be a viable tool for The Bridge. “Teens lifeline is texting and now that we have 400SAFE, we can meet youth where they are and counsel and deal with crisis in a new way that is confidential and at their fingertips…literally!”.
The Bridge Adds New Board Members
The Bridge for youth welcomed three new members this year to it’s Board of Directors. “These individuals bring a wealth of experience in marketing, business development and technology and will help guide The Bridge as it continues to be a key resource in The Twin Cities for kids in crisis, “says Board Chair Scott Thomas-Forss,” We are excited to have their passion for helping the community and young people on our team.”
Welcome to all!
Amy has been employed at UPS for 15 years with various roles in sales, sales training, customer solutions and sales operations.
“As a board member, its’ important to me that we continue to expand a greater level of awareness to the issues that face our youth in our communities and how the great work that happens at The Bridge positively impacts so many young lives and families, ” Asche says, ” I am looking forward to being a part of an amazing group of community leaders focused on making a difference.”
Zoe Stern is the Associate Director for WE day Minnesota. Prior to working for Free the Children she worked at Jewish Family and Children’s Service in fundraising and program development. As a home grown Minnesotan, Zoe is excited and proud to be a new member of The Bridge board and looks forward to helping Minnesota youth.
Anna Waters brings over 15 years of experience in helping organizations enhance the effectiveness of their executives and leaders. She currently works collaboratively with Korn Ferry’s clients and internal partners to effectively manage executive assessment and development engagements.
“It is a privilege to participate in something so relevant. All kids deserve to feel safe and if they don’t, it is our responsibility to make sure we have the support systems in place for them. I can’t wait to contribute to this endeavor, “says Waters about her new appointment as a new board member.
A Day of Thanks and Celebration
It’s a big day here at The Bridge for Youth! After two years of hard work, the Open Hands Foundation, Westwood Community Church, and The Bridge for Youth will cut the ribbon to open the first youth shelter serving the southwest metro area.
This is what partnership is all about! Addressing community issues like family instability and youth homelessness is hard work. Bringing together different organizations with different perspectives and strengths results in better solutions.
Hats off to Westwood Community Church and Open Hands Foundation for identifying a need in the southwest metro. Teens are on their own every night because of family conflict. Sleeping at friends houses, outstaying their welcome, they have no place to go. Some drive around at night with the cops, others sleep outside. Most are at risk for exploitation.
And, with hard work, Westwood Community Church members and Open Hands Foundation crafted and funded a solution. They donated space for the shelter, supplies, labor, and two years of operating expenses. And, they bring a deep commitment to giving back to the community.
The Bridge for Youth is honored to be the service provider to partner with these two fine organizations. Rob Ward, PhD, will manage our new Emergency Shelter. An experienced social worker and passionate advocate for youth, Rob has hired a terrific team to work with youth and families in need.
The Bridge’s motto is to be a safe and welcoming place for everyone, making no judgments. We look forward to being a part of the southwest metro community.
For information about youth emergency shelter, teen counseling, parent or caregiver counseling, call The Bridge for Youth at (612)377-8800, text (612)400-SAFE, or drop-in at 3010 W. 78th Street, Excelsior, MN.
Text Hotline for Teens Launches at The Bridge for Youth
SEPTEMBER 9, 2015–MINNEAPOLIS –The Bridge for Youth launched its new 24-hour texting hotline for teens and families today. The crisis hotline, (612) 400-SAFE, is staffed round the clock by professional staff and volunteers, trained to de-escalate crisis, provide emotional support, and connect youth and families with critical resources.
“With 400-SAFE, kids can connect with us anywhere, at any time,” said Ali Kier, Youth Response Center Supervisor at The Bridge for Youth. “They can text us at school or from any unsafe situation at home or on the street.”
The new service gives teens a safe, anonymous way to communicate difficult information — and get help. Staff and hotline volunteers are trained to address a wide variety of sensitive topics including bullying, family conflict, homelessness, violence, sexual exploitation, anxiety, depression, gender identity issues, self-harm, and suicide.
With cell phone use at an all-time high for teens, introducing a texting crisis counseling program is well-timed. Pew Research reports in their 2015 study on youth and social media that a typical teen sends 30 texts per day. And, in today’s wired world, only 12% of 10-17 year olds say they don’t have access to a cell phone. Teen cell phone ownership is highest among African American teens, with 85% reporting they own a smart phone.
The biggest challenge facing The Bridge for Youth now is to get the word out to teens about the service. “Our hope is that friends will tell friends and (612) 400-SAFE will get entered as a contact into a lot of cell phones. It’s a tool that can save someone’s life. We want every kid to know this number,” said Kier.
The Bridge for Youth is seeking volunteers to help staff the crisis line at its Youth Response Center in Minneapolis. Click here for more information.
Developed by software development firm DevJam, 400-SAFE was funded with grant support from Target, Microsoft, Shavlik Family Foundation, Youthprise, Pohlad Family Foundation, the State of Minnesota, and RBA.
KSTP TV – Channel 5 airs Bridge For Youth news segment
Bridge for Youth board member Ellie Krug shares her thoughts on the need for support for transgender kids and their parents. BFY’s LGBTQ Out Reach coordinator, Alicia Mehle, talks about our newly launched PACE group (Parent and Caregiver Empowerment) for parents who want to understand the issues their transgender youth face. Check out the link in the story to the PACE flyer for more details. Click here to see the interview.
Back to School and Homeless Youth
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.