The Bridge Emergency Shelter seeks understanding, support
‘Homeless Awareness Walk’ is Saturday at Parque de Vida
With a year of experience under her belt, AmeriCorps member Kristen Tworek believes she will be better equipped to work at The Bridge Emergency Shelter this winter.
“I feel like I can be 10 times more effective during the upcoming shelter season,” said the 29-year-old former accountant.
After graduating from Albion College in Michigan with a degree in economics and management, Tworek set her sights on finance and worked as an accountant in Philadelphia, Pa. She soon realized bookkeeping was not her passion, and set out on a path to get her foot in the door of working with non-profit organizations.
Tworek relocated to Cortez last October to work with The Bridge Emergency Shelter, and has since re-enlisted with AmeriCorps to work with local homeless people for another year.
“I really like Cortez,” she said. “I knew I wasn’t ready to leave yet.”
After initiating new programs and procedures over the last year, Tworek said she wants to do more at the shelter this winter. She is getting an early start to help stock the shelter with basic necessities during the inaugural Homeless Awareness Walk on Saturday, August 17.
“The shelter is only able to run because of our community’s dedication and generosity,” said Tworek.
The one-mile Homeless Awareness Walk features interactive opportunities that emphasize the causes of homelessness and challenges that homeless individuals face on a local, state and national level.
The Bridge Emergency Shelter averaged 23 guests nightly last winter season, assisting a total of 233 different clients.
There’s no fee to participate in the awareness walk, but the community is asked to bring nonperishable food items, paper kitchen products, cleaning supplies or basic hygiene necessities to help restock the shelter’s storeroom shelves.
Assisting Tworek to launch the Homeless Awareness Walk is 23-year-old AmeriCorps member Christy Janiszewski. After working with urban youth to keep them in school, Janiszewski also relocated to Cortez last fall to help the homeless.
“We are the first AmeriCorps members to work with the homeless shelter here,” she said, recently re-enrolling to serve at the shelter for the upcoming winter season.
A graduate of Taylor University in Indiana, Janiszewski said the greatest challenges were adjusting to the dynamics associated with diverse cultures and determining how to best meet the needs of the people she was charged with assisting.
“Rural homelessness is different than what you find in the city,” she said.
“Building relationships has been very rewarding for me,” she added. “A lot of the people we work with don’t trust easily, so when you can get to a point where they come to celebrate joys with you, it’s a cool, rewarding experience.”
For Tworek, her greatest challenge was learning how to interact with various individuals, because each have their own specific needs and individual desires.
“A lot of the problems have similar themes, but everybody is very different and they want to be treated differently,” she said.
On any given night, some half-million Americans find themselves homeless. Operating from Oct. 15 to April 15, the local emergency shelter is open from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. daily, offering a nightly hot meal, laundry facilities, and with separate male and female sleeping quarters with showers.
The Bridge Shelter was incorporated in 2009.
More than 80,000 Americans join AmeriCorps annually to assist at nonprofits, schools, public agencies and community and faith-based groups across the country. They receive a living stipend to perform community service
Since the program’s founding in 1994, more than 800,000 AmeriCorps members have contributed more than one billion hours in community service.
The Homeless Awareness Walk starts at 10:30 a.m. from the playground shelter at Parque de Vida. The first 50 people to register receive a free T-shirt, and a barbecue will be held afterwards.
For more information, visit www.thebridgeshelter.org/Homeless_Walk.html.