The Bridge Fund of Westchester
Who we are.
Director, The Bridge Fund of Westchester
Sharon Syndor-Whyte and Jacqueline Melendez
2019 Year in Review:
What a year 2019 was for The Bridge Fund of Westchester! It was about Taking Action and Building Hope! We had one of our most productive years yet, assisting more households across Westchester County than ever before. We received 3,123 requests for
assistance in 2019. Nearly all were given information and referral services; 355 households also received financial assistance, case management, and budget counseling
to resolve their immediate crises and preserve their housing.
In 2019, we concentrated on improving and increasing our partnerships and introducing efficiency measures for seamless case work. As always, we delivered services and built a sense of hope, while understanding our clients’experience.
Westchester County has been in a housing affordability crisis for many years and the need remains high. United Way has put the “need” in perspective and refers to the most vulnerable individuals and families as ALICE—Asset Limited Income Constrained and Employed. This population is known to The Bridge Fund as the working poor, people who work hard to sustain and earn more than the Federal Poverty Level. They struggle to maintain a bare-bones budget, which if met by an unforeseen emergency, can become disastrous for a family. In Westchester, 29% of households are considered ALICE and 11% live in poverty. In other words, 40% of Westchester County households do not earn enough money to sustain an average budget for their household size, let alone afford rising costs of rent.
The Westchester County shelter system was home to 4,960 people throughout the year. The trauma and financial impact of eviction and homelessness are tremendous. We have worked diligently to raise funds for eviction prevention and increase awareness of the lack of affordable housing in Westchester County.
A prime example of our action is our work in Northern Westchester. In Peekskill, 55% of the population is considered to be ALICE/living in poverty, and our data shows clients spend an average of 45% of their gross income on rent. In response, we increased our presence in the Peekskill area. We have participated in community events with the support of the Mayor and city leaders, partnered with prominent community agencies, raised targeted funding and increased our partnership with the Department of Social Services to better serve this area of the county.
Picasso once said, “action is the foundational key to all success.” We are excited to embark on a new year, continuing to build a sense of hope across our community and taking action to establish and preserve safe and reasonable housing for Westchester residents.
Recent Success Stories in Westchester
Director’s Annual Message
The Atmosphere in Westchester County
- There are 97,454 people living in poverty or 10% of the population.
- A person must work 135 hours per week, or 3.4 full time jobs, to afford a 2-bedroom apartment without being considered “housing cost burdened,” where 30% or more of income is spent on rent.
- An estimated 40,240 households receive Food Stamps.
- Today Westchester has more homeless people than any other New York county outside New York City
- 739 children in 2018, up 17.7% from 2015
- 396 families in 2018, up 5.6% from 2015
- 1,827 total people in 2018, up 1.7% from 2015
What is causing Westchester’s high rate of homelessness?
- Poverty and under employment
- Divorce and failure to provide child support by one partner
- Less acceptance of domestic violence, primarily of women
- Returning veterans with mental health or drug problems
- Declines in Federal housing subsidies
- Aging out of foster care
- Increasing rents in Westchester County
- Poor education and lack of job skills
Westchester’s Hidden Homeless
- Westchester has over 1,800 homeless school-age children living doubled-up with
relatives or others, twice as many as in homeless shelters.
- No one has any statistical data on the living conditions of these 1,800 “hidden
homeless” school-age children.
The Bridge Fund of Westchester Experience in 2019
- Average client spends over 47% of their income on rent
- 355 households received financial assistance for rental arrears in 2019, up 9% from 2018
- We provided 85 households with food pantry assistance
Our Response in 2020
- Try to raise additional funds to meet increasing demand of Westchester residents
- Explore the development of community-based relationships throughout the county including Peekskill and Yonkers
- Put clients in touch with workforce development services
Grace Perry, Director
The Bridge Fund of Westchester