From The Bridge’s mission statement: “To ‘bridge the gap’ between homeless and sheltered by giving a voice and sustainable income to the homeless community.”
A few years ago, a trio of Rhodes students had an idea about starting a street newspaper. The newspaper would include stories and articles written by the homeless. There would be illustrations by them as well and stories addressing the issues surrounding homelessness. The paper would be run by student volunteers; homeless vendors would sell it.
The Bridge will mark its second anniversary Wednesday, March 25th, from 5 to 6 p.m., at St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral (700 Poplar), which is the paper’s distribution and vendor training center. The event will recognize vendors, supporters, and volunteers, says Bridge co-founder Caroline Ponseti.
In the past year, $32,000 has been raised through the paper going directly to the vendors, with 57,000 papers sold by 40 active vendors.
Vendors get 20 papers free, buy additional papers for 25 cents each, sell them for $1 and keep the profit. “They set their own hours,” says Ponseti. “They use the proceeds for shelter or buying a meal.”
The original three founders are moving on, leading to a new executive board led by Eilidh Jenness, who will be at the event. Isaac Bryant, one of Bridge’s success stories, will also be at the event and will give a quick reflection.
Ponseti says working on The Bridge has changed her thinking on homelessness. She says there’s a disconnect on how and when people become homeless and about their efforts and desires to get a job.
“It’s altered our message,” she says.