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Bridge of Hope and St. Stephen

Bridge of Hope
- Rev. Dr. Fritz Ritsch

Something I’m very excited about. On three Wednesdays in March, March 4, 18, 25, we will be introduced to a new local mission outreach called Bridge of Hope. Bridge of Hope enables a local congregation to sponsor a family, generally a mother and her children, as they transition out of homelessness. We are doing this in partnership with The Center for Transforming Lives (CTL), who will screen families and make their own resources available, including money and case management. 

For our part, the church team working with the family will provide whatever support they need, which might include mentoring, transportation, help with negotiating bureaucracy, and so on; but most important we are their bridge back into society after they’ve been trapped on its fringes. There is no, or very little financial commitment; the church’s job is to provide community and to facilitate the transition. This is all very new and so most details will be filled in for us when CTL’s trainer, Heather Lowe, leads the events in March. 

CTL itself is doing groundbreaking work in addressing a problem in Fort Worth, but also in our society as a whole, that few communities have addressed well or at all: family homelessness. Women’s and children’s homelessness is a problem that is far larger and more hidden than the chronic homelessness we see on the streets and at the shelters. Last year’s Point-in-Time count identified 2017 homeless in our community. In contrast, Fort Worth ISD reports 7,000 children they identify as homeless and CTL has reported overall there are about 14,000 homeless children between the ages 0-18. 

The average age to experience homelessness is one year old. The reason these homeless children and their families do not show up in the annual count is because they are for the most part not on the streets. They are hopping from place to place or living out of their cars. 

Under CTL’s leadership the community is starting organize itself to address this issue. For instance, last month CTL called together key leaders in Room in the Inn in Tarrant County to start brainstorming a way that we could provide RITI for families. 

The Continuum of Care, the consortium of homelessness agencies and housing providers, has a task force to address the issue. But St. Stephen will be on the cutting edge as one of the first churches to implement Bridge of Hope. 

We will be meeting March 4, 18, and 25, 5:00-6:30 pm in the Eastminster Room. Dinner is $5 per person if you want it. If you wish dinner on those days, RSVP to Anne Barrett at 817-927-8411 or admin@ststephenpresbyterian.co

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