Although providing meals, medical attention and clothing for those struggling is important, overcoming poverty in the communities Ascension serves takes more – such as equipping vulnerable individuals with the skills necessary to break the poverty cycle that limits their progress. This includes guiding them to find a safer environment, improved medical treatment and a steady job. It also takes a great deal of hope.
Representatives from the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan and St. John Providence, part of Ascension Michigan, have come together to offer a program that does just that, offering residents in the Detroit area Bridges to HOPE (Helping Others Prosper through Empowerment).
Based on Bridges out of Poverty by Aha! Process, Inc., Bridges to HOPE assists those in need in beginning their journey to self-sufficiency. The program is intended to enhance the quality of life for everyone involved and create a model for other communities. Two facilitators and a backup facilitator help participants create their own path to a more secure and successful future through a series of 16 free workshops.
Each session lasts two hours and focuses on an aspect of life planning. Participants receive a stipend, a “Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World” workbook, transportation, meals at each workshop and access to one-on-one mentorship for up to one year after graduation.
On November 12, the first cohort of investigators (participants) graduated from the program. Ten of the 15 participants who graduated achieved perfect attendance at the workshops.
“While involved in the Bridges to HOPE program, I learned (early on) the importance of reinvesting in myself,” participant Jacqueline Austin said. “There was a module within the program The Theory of Change which really spoke to me. It forced me to examine how to make changes and the importance of ‘being in charge of the changes I make.'”
Facilitators were excited to learn that Jacqueline went on to apply for and win a $1,500 grant from Operation ABLE of Michigan. Inspired by what she learned through Bridges to HOPE, she used the funds to buy technology items needed to help launch her new business.
Another graduate is working to secure her first home loan as a result of what she learned in Bridges to HOPE.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan and St. John Providence plan to offer the program again in January 2016. Click here to watch a video about the impact that Bridges to HOPE has already had.
For more information about the Bridges to HOPE program, contact St. John Providence’s Cynthia Taueg, DHA, Vice President, Community-based Health Services, or Cassandra Jackson, MBA, Program Manager, Bridges to HOPE, at 313-499-4963 or 313-369-5783.
Article originally appeared in Good Day Ascension, January 15, 2016, published by Ascension Health.