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“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life, that no person can sincerely try to help another without helping themselves."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Every day they walk through the doors of The Bridges. They are old, young, male, female, temporarily unemployed, unemployable, mentally ill, addicted, lost, hungry, lonely, loving, funny, smart, disabled, depressed, joyful and talented. They come singly and sometimes in pairs.
There are no stereotypes of the homeless because they each have a different story and reason for coming. Some will need help forever, and some for only a few days or months. Some stay to give back, share, and to help others. Some are looking for a refuge or a place where they are accepted. Some are surprisingly upbeat despite the hand that fate has dealt them. A few come because of the mistakes they have made.
Many are here because of circumstances totally beyond their control. Beyond the "I don't care" facade, there is often physical disability, mental illness, addiction, and, at times, a childhood of pain, neglect, and abuse. Despite this, The Bridges is not a depressing place. There is laughter, conversation, friendship, and hope.
Each day we try to meet the unique needs of the individuals in our care. It is often frustrating, time-consuming, emotionally draining, and sometimes heartbreaking.
There is not always a happy ending. But when it works, when the hundreds of hours of effort pay off, we see our clients take baby steps towards a positive future full of promise and hope; reclaiming lives and rebuilding relationships.
At The Bridges, a wide variety of services and programs are offered to engage our clients and help them in moving forward. A detailed case plan is developed for each person, and they are expected to follow through. The appropriate staff persons offer individual support and assistance. CSC partners with many other community agencies to provide the following programs and services:
Blair Voluntary Trust Program
The Blair Voluntary Trust Program assists our residents to better manage and budget their income. Many of our residents are on fixed and limited incomes, and often do not have the financial literacy to ensure that their rent and other bills are paid, and to budget their funds to make them last for the month.
Funded by the Jim and Lorna Blair Charitable Foundation and the Ministry of Community and Social Services, the Blair Voluntary Trust Program offers an opportunity for residents to take charge of their funds and to learn to budget effectively. Each client of the program has their own ‘bank account’ and is given regular statements. Trust Program staff sit down each month with participants to help them budget and to encourage them to save. Trust Program staff pay rent and other bills on the participant’s behalf to ensure that they remain stably housed and that the cycle of homelessness is not repeated. There is no charge to the participant for this service.
Cambridge Shelter Corporation Identification Clinic
Our Drop-In Coordinator is able to secure many forms of identification for our residents, including health cards, birth certificates, social insurance cards, and landed immigrant certificates. Without proper identification it is impossible to find permanent housing or employment. There is no charge to the resident for this service.
Housing Support Workers
Cambridge Shelter Corporation has three full-time Housing Support Workers on site who work with each individual to develop a plan with them to move forward to find appropriate, affordable, permanent housing. By partnering with both public and private housing providers, we were able to successfully house over 100 of our residents last year.
Furnishings and other household items are also provided for those moving into permanent housing.
Mental Health Support
Cambridge Shelter Corporation has a full-time Mental Health and Housing Manager, who is also a nurse. We also have a part-time Mental Health Peer Worker. This in-house expertise allows us to provide mental health support to the 60%+ of our residents with mental health issues. Our Mental Health Peer Worker holds weekly meetings with residents to provide an informal, safe place for them to share, and to suggest program enhancements.
On Site Medical Clinic
Cambridge Shelter Corporation has partnered with Lang’s Community Health Centre for the past 18 years. A doctor, nurse practitioner, and social worker are on site once a week to provide medical care and support for our residents.