Bridges to Independence’s vision is to break intergenerational cycles of poverty.
Bridges to Independence is a registered 501c3 nonprofit, based in Arlington County, VA, and founded in 1985, as the Arlington-Alexandria Coalition for the Homeless. In December 2020, Bridges merged with Bonder and Amanda Johnson Community Development Corporation to expand Bridges’ mission and further achieve the vision. Please visit the history page to learn more about both organizations.
Currently, Bridges serves about 100 families annually across Arlington County, equating to 300 individuals, and two-thirds of whom are under the age of 18. The expansion to Green Valley will add an additional and approximate 300 families and community members.
Our short-term goal is to help individual and families right now – whether they are unable to pay a utility bill or are experiencing emergency homelessness. Long-term, Bridges aims to empower today’s struggling youth or adults to be tomorrow’s successful community members. Historically, Bridges’ focus has been on families, especially the children. Today, Bridges expands that focus to empower those in need by enhancing their economic and social development, especially those living in the Green Valley community.
- Shelter: Bridges operates Arlington County’s largest emergency family shelter, known as the Sullivan House, which has approximately 45 beds across 10 separate apartment units. It is a temporary solution for those with little or no resources. While there, families receive intensive case management – assessing their situation, providing Bridges program resources, or referring to other resources. The families are treated with the upmost respect and positivity, are welcomed with open arms, and receive whatever immediate needs they may have – food, diapers, personal supplies, basic kitchen items, gift cards and more – thanks to donations from the community. The length of stay generally is between 30-90 days, and then Bridges works with the families to move them into permanent solutions – a home of their own, with another family member or friend, or out of Arlington County where they may have other family connections.
- Housing: Bridges provides rental assistance and housing placement support for families, as well as daily case management, through a program called Rapid Rehousing. Through case management, Bridges provides a connection to additional resources for the families for financial, legal, mental health, and medical. Through partnerships with landlords in the community, Bridges helps families secure and maintain a lease in their own name, which assists them in establishing a foundation for good credit.
- Workforce Development: Bridges provides programming to move families from minimum wage to livable wage by helping them acquire additional certifications or further their education, such as supporting them in obtaining their GED or helping enroll them in ESL classes. The program also helps families get a better paying job through resume support, interviewing practice, sharing job leads, and job fair opportunities. One-on-one mentoring support is provided, and Bridges meets them where they are to tailor an action plan for them going forward. By becoming economically self-sufficient, this will enable families to sustain permanent housing and build longer-term financial security.
- Financial Empowerment: Bridges offers financial empowerment seminars and monthly counseling in a one-on-one setting where volunteers review the individual case, help families create a manageable budget, and ensure they are connected to appropriate federal programs. Case managers also work with the families to raise their financial consciousness and reinforce the benefits of making healthy financial decisions. In Green Valley, classes are offered to the community on budgeting, debt control, future planning, and emergency assistance.
- Youth Development: Bridges offers programming to any youth currently in shelter, the housing program, or to those who are “alumni” of either, which includes tutoring, mentoring, leadership and entrepreneurial skills, and evening activities such as crafts, cooking, music, swim lessons, and more. The program aids these youth in improving their academic skills, self-esteem, job readiness, health and well-being. The goal is to give the youth the confidence, skills, and tools needed to pursue and complete post-secondary education or vocational training, providing them with a pathway to economic security. Current programming initiatives include Bridges’ Youth Leadership Academy which culminates in a summer internship program, the crowd-favorite Lemonade Stand, the fun yet educational Kids’ Empowered nights, newly launched Bright Bridges mentoring, and year-round academic tutoring. In Green Valley, there is a specific focus to encourage youth of all ages to set goals, prepare for college, and acquire the tools need for career readiness.
- Bonder & Amanda Johnson Community Services Center: The Bonder & Amanda Johnson Community Services Center in Green Valley serves as a walk-in referral and information resource for those in need. Green Valley residents may meet regularly with a case manager, if needed. This community services center also serves as a food distribution site for the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC). Additionally, health screenings may be offered, as well as additional community classes, such as parenting, tenant rights, and more. This center is in the heart of Green Valley and is a cornerstone for community services to its residents.
Do you need help or supportive services?
If you or someone you know is experiencing homelessness, or at risk of becoming homeless, contact Arlington County’s Department of Human Services Community Assistance Bureau (CAB) at 703-228-1300 for help. In case of shelter need during non-business hours, please call 703-228-1010 for assistance.
The Department of Human Services offers several assistance programs for Arlington residents. To learn more, call 703-228-1350 or visit https://publicassistance.arlingtonva.us/.
If you live in the Green Valley community and are in need of supportive services, please call 703-525-7177.