Bridges Safehouse has been a sanctuary for those in need since 1998. Over the years this Cedar Hill institution has evolved into a home base of sorts for homeless pregnant girls and women with small children who need a new start.
Emily Van Wie, Executive Director of Bridges Safehouse, noted “We give them (the residents) something that maybe they haven’t had the ability to do themselves, or had the confidence, or the tools.”
Hardship can go both ways, however. Bridges Safehouse has felt the financial pinch like so many other service organizations lately. As Van Wie discussed their most immediate needs, they run the gamut from toiletries to bedding to a 12-passenger van for church and errands. And, of course, there is always a place for new volunteers.
Bethany Massey started out as one of those volunteers. Now an Assistant Manager for Bridges Thrifty Boutique, Massey was attracted to the group when she saw the dedication of other volunteers. “Their heart is completely in what they’re doing. It’s not just a job, it’s not just something to say they do or that they are involved with. They want to know each girl who comes through here personally.”
Photos of happy, healthy residents and their children cover the walls of the home. Bridges Safehouse offers a four-week program for pregnant girls who need emergency housing - the ones living in cars or are in a desperate time of crisis. Their Twitter page often tells the stories of moms-to-be in brief, stark detail: “So heartbroken as a new resident moved in today with literally nothing. She is in need of clothing, pjs, shoes, a jacket, makeup, etc. Please help us give her these basic necessities!”
During these four weeks a different aspect of a resident’s life is addressed: week one of the program is about immediate needs, week two focuses on their goals. The third week is dedicated to how to be a Godly woman, or becoming an overall productive person, regardless of faith. The last week deals with working on the future - the next 30 days, the next 6 months, the next year.
Many volunteers involved with the Safehouse act from a place of faith; others are motivated by personal experience. Van Wie, with a Masters in Public Affairs and Nonprofit Management, as well as years of service with her church, “stepped up” from both.
“My passion is ….. equipping nonprofits to be healthy - and individuals, so really it kind of comes together…” she said.
Legal paperwork and medical issues are dealt with at Bridges, too. A girl might come in seven months pregnant yet has never seen a doctor in that time. Another can’t hold a job because she has no social security card. Sharon Verigan, Lead House Manager, addressed some of the hurdles with whom she deals.
“If they don’t have their WIC, their food stamps, their social services, we help with that. We also give them resources so they can do their part in finding long term housing,” she said.
Verigan’s dedication came from her own past. “There are many times in life I’ve gone through bad times. But I had something really, really important called a support system,” Verigan said. “The majority of these residents do not have a support system. And that’s what we are for that timeframe that they are here.”
Reflecting on her own trials, Verigan stated “Bridges Safehouse is what I believe that I was meant to do for all of my life.”
This article is from The Dallas Morning News' Neighborsgo blog, posted by Mike McGee Mar 9, 2013. For more information about Bridges Safehouse, visit bridgessafehouse.org.