Nonprofit Spotlight: More than a bridge, Bridgeview creates path out of poverty

Bridgeview takes a holistic approach to service, works with partners across the city

Three women at a table
Courtesy of Bridgeview Housing

Once serving only as the resident services and resources arm of the Vancouver Housing Authority, today, Bridgeview Housing (now known as Bridgeview) takes a holistic approach to service and works with partners across the city to provide wrap-around services that help people struggling with poverty to find work and housing; access to health care, affordable food and crisis services; and to meet other basic needs.

Bridgeview has seemed to expand exponentially in the last couple of years, opening a brand new resource center as well as an apartment building for homeless youth and those graduating out of foster care. The organization brought on a new executive director, and it recently entered the barista training game.

While most of the organization’s funding flows from the Vancouver Housing Authority, Bridgeview does have connections and support in the business community, including Lighthouse Community Credit Union, which leases space in its building. Companies from Amazon to Goodwill partner with Bridgeview on employment fairs and placement. Espresso Elegance and Paper Tiger Coffee Roasters have been instrumental in training fledgling baristas. The hope is the barista program can provide training and employment opportunities for the residents of Caples Terrace, the 28-unit building for youth in poverty and transition, which is located across the street.

Angie Sytsma came on in July as the organization’s second executive director after founding executive director Jan Wichert retired. Above all, said Sytsma, “The building would not be here – it would not have happened without the support of the business community.”

The $3.9 million Education and Employment Resource Center opened Jan. 7 in the low-income Skyline Crest neighborhood adjacent to the Boys & Girls Club. According to Bridgeview’s website, the Resource Center provides 8,900 square feet of space housing classrooms, meeting space, a computer lab, teaching kitchen, office space and more. Washington Department of Employment (Work Source), Goodwill Job Connection, Lighthouse Community Credit Union and Bridgeview have permanent offices in the center. In addition, community partners provide employment readiness classes, job referrals, college classes, health and wellness classes, parenting classes, support groups, job and health fairs, financial counseling and more on site. The Bridgeview Resource Center was designed to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver standards.

Several years ago, said Sytsma, Bridgeview’s mission expanded into a “bilateral approach” that aimed to connect low-income county residents with 90-plus social service providers across all categories. And while the organization grows at a rapid rate, Sytsma points to Wichert and VHA Executive Director Roy Johnson as the engines behind the expanded vision.

“I have to give credit to Jan Wichert, our founding director, for the vision she brought to fruition. She knew that rather than doing another community center, this could be something more,” said Sytsma, adding, “We’re so blessed to have Roy Johnson as our leader. He is really compassionate and forward thinking. He sees housing as a greater solution, connected to all the other interventions and social determinants of health.”

Bridgeview is one of the nonprofits participating in this year’s Give More 24! event. Visit https://www.givemore24.org/organizations/bridgeview.

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