Bridge shelter prepares for 7th season

On Oct. 15, 2012, the Bridge Emergency Shelter will open our doors for our seventh season. Generosity of many community members and our local faith community has been vital to our endurance. This year we signed a five-year Memorandum of Understanding with the county commissioners which specifies our continued use of the space in the old jail. We have learned how to “run” this space and find it to be very suitable to our needs.

Agendas for board meetings always have our mission and vision printed at the top. Our mission is to provide overnight shelter and services for adult men and women during the colder months of the year. We believe everyone should have the basic necessities of life and envision a community where men and women can access shelter and services in ways that honor individual dignity and encourage self-sufficiency. It makes sense that the governing group of an organization is reminded of its mission and it only makes sense that the public is reminded too.

We are unique among homeless shelters because we will take intoxicated individuals. Last year we separated intoxicated and sober guests and learned that we were able to work with willing folks to find the necessary steps towards independent living. Our staff was effective in assisting with the process for housing vouchers to move some clients into their own places. We were instrumental in helping an individual complete his commercial driver’s license and now he’s on the road and gives us a call when he’s in the area. There were other folks who were helped by learning what programs they could qualify for and then got help to fill out the applications. We have an agreement with Axis Health System for a substance abuse counselor to work at the shelter for five hours a week, creating an opportunity to address mental health and substance abuse issues.

I could go on and the point is that our community benefits because of the work of the Bridge Emergency Shelter.

The Cortez Day Labor Center, capably managed by Anna Bousquet, is a program that has been part of the Bridge Emergency shelter for almost two and a half years. This is a connecting place for people desiring employment and employers needing workers. Our numbers for this program are impressive. Since we opened, over 1,500 unduplicated workers have come in our doors looking for employment and more than 250 different employers have come to us looking for workers. This year between mid-August and mid-September, 51 percent of workers were placed for at least one day with an employer. Short-term jobs through the Day Labor Center can turn into full-time part-time, or seasonal job placement. There is a positive economic impact in our community because of our Day Labor Center.

As our new season begins, there is a variety of upcoming events. They will take place at the shelter; to find us turn off Empire into the parking lot that is on the north side of the Municipal Court building at the corner of Mildred and Empire. The north entrance is clearly marked. Our season gets underway with a clean-up day on Saturday, Oct. 6, beginning at 10 a.m.. Sisters of Peace will be spearheading this effort and we need volunteers to round out the crew.

Second, staff training will run from Oct. 9 through Oct. 12 from 9 to 5 each day. Donna Boyd, shelter manager, has put together a great training that will be beneficial for volunteers too.

On Sunday, Oct. 14, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., we are planning an open house. If you are curious about our space and our operations, come and visit. You will have a chance to meet staff and board members, enjoy refreshments and join us for a blessing ceremony.

Our capacities to make differences in the lives of men and women who use our services will be enhanced this year as we host two AmeriCorps members. As part of the Colorado Rural Homeless Shelter Collaborative, we are an AmeriCorps site where members serve for 12 months on a limited stipend in return for an educational award to help offset higher education costs. Be on the lookout for these new folks and welcome them as they work (and play, of course!) in our community.

Our board of directors has been tremendously helpful throughout the history of the Bridge. Roy Lane and I are the longest-serving members. Others on the board include: Doug Greene, Josiah Forkner, Joanie Howland, Angel Hubbard, Pat Kantor, and Johnny Mosher. Boards of directors are often asked to make difficult decisions, and this summer the board decided that we will not proceed with building a kitchen until we can cover all the expenses, beyond the amount from a donor whose gift is explicitly for kitchen construction. Once again we look to our community soup kitchens to help us out and the response has been along the lines of, “Of course!”

This is the time of the year when people want to know what we need or how they can help. Here are a few things:

cortez coloradoSend a tax deductible cash donation to P.O. Box 56 in Cortez.

cortez coloradoVolunteer to be on the Board; volunteer to work a shift at the shelter.

cortez coloradoParticipate in the Bridge Bags program through local churches.

cortez coloradoCall the shelter to learn what food and goods we need.

The number for the shelter is (970) 565-9808. I can be reached at (970) 560-5017 or for information and questions. And, please come to our open house on Oct. 14.

M.B. McAfee is chair of the board of directors of the Bridge Emergency Shelter.

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