Bridge of Hope
Sarah worked hard and put in long hours, yet she could not bring in enough money to keep her children housed. She went to school for medical assistance, but instead of getting a professional certificate, she wound up taking a low-paying aid job that forced her to travel two hours for work and spend $1,600 a month for gas and car insurance. Despite her best effort, she could not get ahead. Now, she has a certificate, which earns her a higher wage and allows her to spend more time with her children under stable finances.
Camilla lived with her children in a high-crime area. She had poor money-management skills and no support network. Now, she is working toward a promotion at work, establishing a savings account and is aspiring to get a college degree.
For Alicia to have a job, she needed a car, but then she could not afford to pay rent. If she paid rent, she could not have a car to get to work. Instead of choosing to be homeless or jobless, Alicia is now planning to pursue a college degree in early childhood education with dreams of opening her own day-care center.
What these three women have in common is hope, specifically a bridge of hope that they traveled across as they sought ways to change their lives and reach their family’s full potential.
Bridge of Hope Harrisburg Area is part of the nationwide Bridge of Hope network that offers that hope to single mothers and their children in an effort, according to its self-described model, “to end family homelessness.” The work, however, goes beyond that by giving women confidence and empowering them beyond housing needs to secure financial stability, self-esteem and friendship.
“Bridge of Hope finds mom housing first and then provides case management focused on her holistic growth, encompassing educational, professional, parental and relational development,” says Relationship Steward Jenny Nace.
The faith-based program follows what it terms a “Three-Way Partnership,” which involves single mother, case manager and church-based mentoring group.
“Lack of relationships and the support that comes with those relationships is a key indicator toward homelessness among the women we serve,” explains Nace. “Partnering these women and their children with a group of neighboring volunteers (six to eight on average) provides her with relationships that, in turn, provide tangible supports and social capital freeing her up to make positive changes in all other areas of her life with the goal of ending and preventing homelessness for her family.”
Single mothers who are accepted into the program receive one-on-one guidance for budgeting, life skills and family-strengthening. Beyond that, mothers are plugged into the mentoring groups for emotional support, practical assistance and spiritual growth.
“Bridge of Hope Harrisburg Area provides a hand-up, not a hand-out, and that’s the most significant part of the program for me,” says Nace. “The participants are encouraged to be independent and work incredibly hard to make lasting change for their families.”
On April 8, the community is invited to attend Bridge of Hope’s annual spring gala. A program participant will share how community support is helping single mothers and their children. The Mark Hunsberger Jazz Trio will perform, and there will be live and silent auctions.