A Brief History of The Bridge Fund of New York
The Bridge Fund was created in 1991 in response to a severe homelessness crisis in Westchester County. In 1990, Westchester had the highest per capita rate of homelessness in the country, with a peak of 4,500 people in shelters. Several experienced advocates for the homeless told the founders of The Bridge Fund,
"If we just had access to some private capital that we could use freely and flexibly, we could prevent a lot of people from becoming homeless."
Over the next 21 years, the number of homeless in the county's shelter system was significantly reduced, and The Bridge Fund of Westchester received considerable credit for its role. The success in Westchdester led to the creation of The Bridge Fund of New York City in 1992, which now serves all 5 boroughs.
Read a full accounting of how the idea of preventing homelessness before it happens was developed into these two successful programs, and how it has been replicated in other states. Oscar S. Pollock, co-founder of The Bridge Fund with his wife Nan, has written this story in Neighbors: A Primer for The Bridge Fund's Private Approach to Preventing Homelessness.
The Bridge Fund of Westchester and The Bridge Fund of New York City are operating programs of The Bridge Fund of New York Inc.
|1991||The Bridge Fund of Westchester was founded by Oscar and Nan Pollock, with the encouragement of Father Peter Larom of Grace Episcopal Church, White Plains, and Karl Bertrand, to address a homelessness crisis in Westchester County. In the first year, we issued 132 loans and grants.|
|1992||Building on the success of the Westchester program, The Bridge Fund of New York City was created to serve two crisis-ridden neighborhoods in New York City.|
The Bridge Fund model was replicated by organizations in Connecticut and Massachusetts.
The Church Avenue Merchants Block Association (CAMBA) opened The Bridge Fund of Brooklyn with start-up funding from The Clark Foundation and US Trust.
|1997||Bridge Fund services were expanded to cover all of Manhattan.|
|1998||The Bridge Fund began serving the Bronx.|
|2001||With funding from Chase Manhattan Foundation, Ridgewood Savings Bank, and The Independence Community Foundation, The Bridge Fund expanded to Queens.|
|2002||The Bridge Fund initiated Project Recovery to assist secondary victims of The Wold Trade Center attacks on 9/11 of 2001. Project Recovery served 313 households consisting of 747 people in 2002 and 2003.|
|2003||The Bridge Fund of New York City expanded services into Staten Island, serving 148 families on Staten Island in its first year.|
Mayor Michael Bloomberg proclaimed February 12th, 2004 as “Bridge Fund Day” in recognition of the contributions of The Bridge Fund to homelessness prevention.
Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano honored The Bridge Fund of Westchester with a proclamation for its services in preventing homelessness in the County.
|2006||The New York City and Westchester programs mobilized more than $1.6 million to help 596 working poor families stay in their homes. These loans and grants helped 1,524 people, 49% of those being children.|
The Bridge Fund of New York City takes over administration of services to Brooklyn from CAMBA, and now covers all 5 boroughs.
The Residential Brokerage Division of the Real Estate Board of New York selected The Bridge Fund of New York Inc. as a major benefactor of the 2007 Residential Deal of the Year Gala.
Severe recession and housing crisis result in the worst economic conditions for the working poor in the history of The Bridge Fund. Westchester sees a 25% increase in referrals, including many households who never needed any kind of financial help before.
New York City program implements Rent Subsidy Project for Pre-Retirement Workers to help seniors hold on to their rent-stabilzed apartments until they are eligible for pensions and Social Security benefits.
The prolonged recession caused a growth in the numbers of people classified as "working poor". The Bridge Fund of Westchester received 28% more applications for assistance than in 2008 and those seeking help due to unemployment rose by 39%.
Requests for assistance increased by a whopping 86% in New York City as unemployment reached double digits. With a $1 million dollar grant from The New York Community Trust and Goldman Sachs Gives, The Bridge Fund of New York City was able to double the number of households served to 717 in 2009.
For the first time, our two programs together helped preserve the housing of more than 1,000 clients.
|2010||The aftershocks of the recession continued to impact the working poor in our region, and applications for assistance continued at a very high level. Together, our two programs gave financial assistance to 1,162 households, an all-time high. This means that 2,661 people, including 1,111 children, were helped to hold on to their affordable housing. This year, publicly funded agencies suffered steep budget cuts, and so The Bridge Fund, with its primarily private funding, is needed more than ever.|
For the third consecutive year, the two programs gave financial assistance to more than 1,000 households -- a total in 2011 of 1,081 households with 2,486 people including 995 children. The number of families with children seeking housing in public shelters in both New York City and Westchester continued to increase while budget cuts at all levels of government have meant reduced funds for homelessness prevention. The Bridge Fund's private funding has been more critically needed than ever in our history.