SVP’s capacity building work with Bridge House from 2009-2012 helped the organization mature, rebrand and launch an employment program for Boulder’s homeless population. In the interim, that program has evolved and strengthened into what Ready to Work is today: a holistic program with two social enterprises – an outdoor clean-up crew and food service operation, Community Table Kitchen, which provide paid transitional employment for homeless men and women, and, starting this week, housing for up to 48 people putting their lives back together.
Tripling its capacity in just two years, Ready to Work has generated revenue for Bridge House through its social enterprise model. Perhaps the most compelling successes however have been its impacts on the trainees –100% of trainees save a portion of their earnings, maintain sobriety and address their own barriers to employment. The program boasts graduation rates of 80%.
Clearly something is working – the model Ready to Work is based on combines employment, support services and housing. Without housing Bridge House staff saw participants continuing to struggle with stability, living on the street or in an emergency shelter.
By winter of 2014, over 300 people had applied to Ready to Work, seeking to improve their own outcomes. Deepening their support for this demonstrated need in Boulder County, in September 2014 Bridge House purchased the property at 4747 Table Mesa Drive, with intentions of housing 48 program trainees and provide them wrap-around services, better ensuring their roads to success.
Many of the same SVP Partners who’d been engaged in the Investee relationship had stayed on with Bridge House to support the development of Ready to Work. This advisory group helped locate and secure the Table Mesa property – a feat in the complex Boulder housing market. This week, the Ready to Work House and Employment Center opens its doors for its first residents.
The Ready to Work House & Employment Center is a self-contained service center for Ready to Work trainees. Residents will be able to focus on sobriety, be a part of a supportive community, know where they’ll be sleeping at night, all the while building employment and independent living skills. Trainees will also build a rental history to help them move into mainstream housing upon graduation. The Center allows Bridge House to triple Ready to Work.
Bridge House’s social enterprises have proven themselves to be a viable model for addressing Boulder’s social challenges. On the horizon, Bridge House is exploring other ideas to add to the mix like helping homeless and low-income residents pay down debts before they become crippling, and offering support for getting into affordable housing. We can’t wait to see what comes next for this alumnus Investee!