Last year, Lifebridge's proven formula moved 45 people from homeless ness into permanent housing — almost one person per week.
In the words of Joe Finn, president of the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance: "Lifebridge has a model that works through intensive, client-driven case management services, successfully moving people from shelter to permanent housing."
Lifebridge has built strong relationships within Salem.
"Lifebridge has been a strong partner and works well with the city," Mayor Kim Driscoll stated. "Life bridge's model, which takes people from homelessness, stabilizes them and moves them into permanent housing, has had a positive impact on our community. Lifebridge's programs help the police, health care providers and other community organizations that provide important services to our homeless population. I look forward to working with officials from Lifebridge to strengthen this important relationship and improve the services provided to our most needy residents."
According to Salem police Chief Paul Tucker: "The SPD has forged an incredibly strong relationship with the staff at Lifebridge and strongly supports the mission of Lifebridge. We are so pleased at the true spirit of cooperation that the police and the Community Impact Unit has had with Lifebridge and all staff members."
Lifebridge has led the way in developing a new approach to an old problem and has helped change the debate from how we contain homelessness to how we can end it.
State Rep. John Keenan, D-Salem, commented: "I want to express my gratitude to the board at Lifebridge for its campaign to ending homelessness through the use of education, job training, health care and housing. The city is fortunate to have a resource that's dedicated to helping individuals move from homelessness to acquire permanent housing."
The successes of Lifebridge have been widely recognized. According to Philip Mangano, who headed the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness in Washington for seven years: "Lifebridge offered both a local and national model to reduce and end homelessness. Lifebridge's board and its staff moved beyond simply managing the lives of homeless people and created a range of interventions that culminated in the appropriate response — housing for their poorest neighbors."
Lifebridge has also developed an initiative with the Salem Probation Department. According to Dolores Reyes-Gormley, chief probation officer: "Lifebridge is an essential building block in successful integration back into the community, helping an offender evolve to a productive individual and changing the life of the community for the better."
Recently, we embarked on our latest collaboration with Salem State University, creating a program in which five Lifebridge residents and 18 university students took a course at both Lifebridge and SSU.
Patricia Maguire Meservey, president of Salem State University, commented: "We have long valued the work of Lifebridge. Our faculty has been pleased to partner with Lifebridge on the renaming and rebranding of the organization; a learning community that explores how food impacts individuals and society; and clinical sessions for nursing students. These are truly valuable collaborations, and we look forward to sustaining and increasing these opportunities with Lifebridge in the future."
The new SSU course complements our existing programs that include nurses, a volunteer physician, men's and women's support groups, art therapy and knitting groups, AA meetings, and a job search program.
Lifebridge's role in developing a healthy community is described by Robert Norton, president and CEO of North Shore Medical Center: "Lifebridge is an integral part of helping many patients maintain control of their lives. Lifebridge plays a key role — not just in housing and nutrition — but in providing the foundations of daily living that are essential to managing one's own health."
Our nurses work closely with clients to triage issues they may have with, for example, their feet, diabetes and blood pressure before they become serious, thereby preventing emergency room visits.
The core work of rehabilitating people to help them end their homelessness and return to a productive life, continues to produce astonishing results. Clinical director Christine Cericola also achieves remarkable successes with clients suffering from mental health issues, helping them to live productively.
Our thrift store continues to grow and flourish and provides opportunities for supporters to make non-cash donations, for residents and neighbors to buy inexpensive furniture, and for clothing to be provided free of charge to those in need. Ann Richardson manages this successful venture while at the same time showing great compassion toward those whom we are helping.
When we first stated our intention of ending homelessness in Salem and on the North Shore, I was told that nobody would take us seriously; rather, we should talk about reducing it or some other less dramatic goal. We believe that we have proved that we have a formula for ending homelessness. Our model works and has been acclaimed. Reproduced elsewhere, we could end homelessness and in the process save substantial sums for the public purse.
Organizationally, Lifebridge is in the best shape it has ever been. Board, management and staff — one team with a common vision. Well, perhaps, not common in the sense of ordinary, because I am frequently reminded that what we set out as our path several years ago is the "road less traveled," but common in the sense that we all share the same goals.
I was delighted that the board elected Lynda Fairbanks-Atkins to succeed me. I believe she is the right person to lead the organization to a higher level.
While the board has had a vision, it does not implement policies. That the managers and staff are dedicated, talented and share a common vision is a tribute to Executive Director Mark Cote. He has hired the right people, and then he has allowed them the freedom to manage their own departments. That is a skill possessed by few leaders.
According to Chief Tucker: "Mark Cote has been a true leader and has earned the respect of this department through his commitment and by an honest and open dealing with the Salem police."
If you ever get a chance to hear Mark talk about how Lifebridge operates, and how our formula continues to move nearly one person each week out of homelessness and into permanent housing, seize it. He is inspiring.
I have been privileged to work with many people — public officials, dedicated staff, volunteers, donors and outside advisers. Your efforts have led directly to the rehabilitation of lives, like the man who has moved from the shelter into supportive housing and now works for the organization as a maintenance man; or the man to whom I gave my President's Award last year who has overcome heroin addiction and now lives in his own home and has returned to serve as a volunteer, as well as a role model.
To all of you, I say thank you. When you support Lifebridge, as I hope you will continue to do, you are supporting an organization that is clearly and measurably making a difference, both to individuals and to the community, as demonstrated by the comments quoted above. We will continue our successful formula — one that has been recognized and acclaimed at the state and federal level — as we strive toward the only goal we have: ending homelessness in Salem and throughout the North Shore!
• • •
Andrew Oliver of Marblehead recently stepped down after nine years as chairman of Lifebridge. Formerly known as the Salem Mission, the organization provides shelter and services for the homeless from its campus in the former St. Mary's Church in downtown Salem.