Bridge Emergency Shelter expanding services

Annual walk to shed light
on changing population

Leigh Waggoner writes messages in chalk on the sidewalk to encourage walkers in the Bridge Emergency Shelter walk for the homeless last year. The walk takes place Sunday this year. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Leigh Waggoner writes messages in chalk on the sidewalk to encourage walkers in the Bridge Emergency Shelter walk for the homeless last year. The walk takes place Sunday this year.

Last season, 23 people who stayed at the Bridge Emergency Shelter held either part-time or full-time jobs.

To Bridge Director Laurie Knutson, this indicative of how the homelessness is changing. Compared with 15 years ago, a greater cross section of society is experiencing homelessness, including more families and elderly, she said.

“There is just not much a safety net,” she said.

The Bridge staff are holding the Second Annual Homeless Awareness Walk on Sunday to help community members learn about the challenges in Cortez and nationwide and how the Bridge is working to meet local needs.

The Bridge serves single men and women from October through April. Additional grant funding from The Bacon Family Foundation made it possible for the Bridge’s season to start Oct. 6 and run through the end of April. Normally, the Bridge closes April 15.

It is Knutson’s long-term goal to have the shelter open year-round, in part because of the positive community the clientele form during the year.

“Some people regress without that,” she said.

The Bridge also remodeled during the summer to offer more space for the sober clientele to socialize.

“It’s a fabulous problem that needed resolution,” Knutson said.

The Bridge set up a permanent dining and education space and will expand the TV area. They will also be able to offer two computer stations that people can use to submit job applications and learn basic computer skills.

The Bridge will be offering tours of the remodeled space, which is next to the Cortez Police Station after Sunday’s awareness walk.

After the 1-mile awareness walk, Americorps Volunteer Saskia Mollet, said she hopes people will take away a better understanding of homelessness in general and the Bridge’s mission.

The staff decided to bring the event back this year after members of the community pitched new ideas to the Bridge for raising awareness.

“We feel like it kind of inspired people,” she said.

The event is free, although the shelter does welcome monetary donations and items including toilet paper, bleach and tooth brushes.

The walk will start under the playground shelter at Parque de Vida at 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Same-day registration starts at 4:30 p.m.

To pre-register, email Kristen at ktworek@thebridgeshelter.org or call 565-9808.