For Lutheran Services Carolinas, a member of the LSA network, working to help people in their community live independent, meaningful lives are key to their mission. When LSC partnered with Bridge of Hope, they found a partner to work with to bring together single mothers in need of support, professional support and volunteer mentors from the local church community.
Bridge of Hope is a national organization that began as a gathering of 37 Christians in a Pennsylvania church basement in 1987. Sharing a deep sense of compassion for homeless single mothers and their children, this group began to look for ways that churches could make a difference in the lives of these families. The concept was simple—a three-way partnership between homeless single mothers, trained church-based mentoring groups and professional case managers. Now with 23 locations in 13 states and in Canada, the same three-way partnership that was created in 1987 is still the foundation of the organization's ministry today.
Bridge of Hope focuses on single mothers and their children because 80 percent of families experiencing homelessness are headed by women, according to the Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress. In their model, a church donates money to subsidize the family's rent and covers some living expenses. The church provides trained mentors to provide emotional support, assist the family in finding a place to live and facilitating transportation and furnishings. LSC case workers from the supportive housing program have received training from Bridge of Hope and teamed up with the church to further assist the family; having a social worker on board allows mentors the freedom to focus more on developing a supportive relationship with the family.
At the heart of Bridge of Hope's mission is an understanding that it takes a community to end homelessness. It's not just a place to live, a case worker or a friend. Bridge of Hope families receive all three keys, changing their lives and bringing an end to the cycle of homelessness.
Single mothers accepted into the Bridge of Hope program must be willing to open their lives to the support that they receive both from the professional social worker assigned to them and the love and compassion of the church-based mentoring groups who become a part of their lives. And their relationships don't end when they graduate and move into their new home, it continues, enriching the lives of the family and the mentors.
That's where LSA member organizations can play an important role. By working with Bridge of Hope, there are opportunities to build lasting relationships that inspire and help the families, as well as engage local congregations and the church community.
LSC began working with Bridge of Hope in 2014 and now thanks to 14 church members from Uptown Church in Charlotte, NC are helping a young mother of four find the path to a brighter future. One of the mentors from Uptown Church shared that, "One of the reasons I love the program is that my whole family can participate, including my three children, who enjoy playing with the Bridge of Hope participant's children."
Through Bridge of Hope and other innovative programs, LSC works to help veterans, at-risk children and people with developmental disabilities gain independence. LSC also provides a comprehensive array of residential options and support services to North Carolina's senior communities.
Bridge of Hope provides extensive training for both the church community and ministry organizations as well as ongoing support. Details on starting a Bridge of Hope program and the three-way partnership are available on their website.
Learn more about the LSC partnership at http://lscarolinas.bridgeofhopeinc.org
Bridge of Hope will again be an exhibitor at the LSA Annual Conference, April 25 – 28, 2016 in Minneapolis, Minn. – be sure to visit their display table to learn more about their model and the potential for partnering with your organization to help homeless mothers in your area.
You can check out their videos of the amazing stories of Bridge of Hope graduates.