About The Bridge Fund of Massachusetts
The Bridge Fund of Massachusetts, Inc., (TBFOM) is a private non-profit 501c3 organization dedicated to preventing homelessness, one family or individual at a time. Modeled after The Bridge Fund of New York City, TBFOM offers zero-interest loans or grants to families, individuals, elders, and the disabled who are at risk of losing their housing. An agreement between the client and landlord ensures that the family or individual is in good standing and that the housing is secured for the future. Along with financial assistance, The Bridge Fund provides comprehensive services which help families address the causes of their financial problems and the resulting rental or mortgage arrears.
TBFOM receives no government funding and operates solely with the support of private foundations, corporations and individuals. 100 percent of a private donors contribution goes directly to assisting a Bridge Fund Client. The board of directors believes firmly that administrative and program management costs should remain low in order to maximize funding for loans and grants, and with only one full time staff person and donated office space and services, the agency is able to successfully adhere to this philosophy.
The Bridge Fund of Massachusetts is the only homelessness prevention program of its kind in the state. The campaign to end homelessness must begin with prevention — a cost effective, humane, and common sense approach which saves families, individuals and particularly children from the crisis and trauma of homelessness.
Who We Serve
TBFM serves low-income families and individuals who are at risk of becoming homeless. These are men and women from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. Many have incomes well below the poverty level earning minimum wage with few or no benefits. The elderly and disabled are on fixed incomes. The age range of our clients is broad, with young mothers comprising a large portion of clients as well as the middle aged and seniors who are also often in dire need of support. Each year TBFM provides assistance to a number of disabled individuals as well. Our clients speak a broad range of languages and our geographic service area covers the entire state.
How We Help
Calamitous events including major illness, job loss or reduction, disability, family break up and domestic violence are typically the precipitant of the financial instability for our clients. All Bridge Fund clients are low-income and the majority work at low-wage jobs. Making ends meet with low-income wages is difficult and with these additional pressures, many find themselves facing eviction.
In most cases there are a number of causes which lead to homelessness and unless these issues are addressed, the likelihood of recurrent homelessness is great. Therefore, clients work with TBFOM to address some of the long-term issues which may have led to their becoming financially unstable.
Services include counseling and planning related to: budgeting, career and job search, child and parenting issues, daycare among other areas in which families many need assistance.
Every client who accepts a TBFOM loan understands that s/he is partnering with TBFOM to prevent another family or individual from becoming homeless since every payment made on their loan serves another family or individual in need. Loan repayments are made monthly and are determined by the client’s financial ability to repay. Some may repay $5.00 a month while others may pay back $25.00 a month. In cases of severe financial hardship, a grant may be made instead of an interest free loan.
Homelessness is a Serious Social Issue
Preventing homelessness by averting evictions is imperative when, according to The National Foundation Advisory Group for Ending Homelessness “homelessness became a significant social problem in the 1980’s. The number of homeless people experiencing homelessness has risen steadily to the present level of 3–4 million annually, more than 1% of the population. In Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless reports that the overall number of homeless families in the state has more than doubled since 1997. Women and children are the fastest growing population of homeless citizens, comprising two-thirds of the total homeless population.” The Coalition reports that there are currently over 57,000 known homeless individuals and/or families in the state. Of these, 21,000 are children. Each year, budget deficits mean fewer and fewer funds available for families and individuals who are struggling to hold onto their housing.
The exorbitant cost of homelessness and temporarily housing families and individuals in shelters, coupled with the downturn in the economy resulting in state budget deficits, keeping people in their housing makes economic sense. Homeless advocates estimate that the cost to the state of providing shelter for one family for one year (the average length of stay) is approximately $48,000. The cost to TBFOM for each loan or grant is $1,000 to $2,000 on average.
The emotional cost to families, individuals, and particularly children is enormous. “Homeless children are sick more often, go hungry, have high rates of delayed development and mental illness, and have trouble attending school,” according to findings of The National Foundation Advisory Group for Ending Homelessness.