Arbor Circle's "The Bridge" youth shelter on Ball Avenue is the only one of it's kind in our area. Serving up to 15 homeless or runaway youth at a time, a stay at The Bridge can change the trajectory of a young person's life.

Open 24/7, 365 days a year, the Bridge safe shelter serves Kent, Ottawa, Montcalm and Ionia counties. That means it's constantly in use, and constantly in need of updates.

Fresh paint, new bathrooms, updated technology, those are just some of the changes in progress at Arbor Circle's The Bridge.

"Our goal really is to provide young people with safety, to help them on their goals towards stability and to reconnect them with safe family and friends, so that this episode of homelessness for them is brief and one time," explained program manager Julie Cnossen.

Nearly every surface of the shared spaces inside The Bridge youth shelter is getting some TLC.

"This building has great bones but it needs an update. This project we are calling Enrich the Bridge," explained Cnossen.

"We serve all our meals here at The Bridge family style, so our staff eat with the youth and updating this space to make it more welcoming is really important to us," she explained as painters worked on the walls.

The renovations will increase the efficiency and functionality of the current space, without adding square footage.

Two locker room style bathrooms will become 3.5 single user, all gender facilities. "Because we are talking about young people who have experienced significant trauma and we are talking about safety risks, we only have one youth in the bathroom at a time," explained Cnossen.

"Structurally we will change our bathrooms to accommodate more youth. If you think that we can accommodate up to 15 young people and you think about showers and getting ready before school in the morning with only two bathrooms -- we'll now have increased space so that is fantastic," said Cnossen.

Updates to a facility that stands in the gap for those with no place else to turn. "Without The Bridge young people are left to figure things out and maybe make some really desperate choices about where they are going to stay. We do see minor youth who are on the street or who are sexually exploited as a result of an episode of homelessness."

"So, if we can intervene early we can really help to change that trajectory for that person going forward and that is a big deal," said Cnossen.

They hope to wrap up construction before the first of the year, and hold a ribbon cutting celebration soon after. The Bridge has remained fully operational during the renovations, welcoming young people every day.

For more information about The Bridge, click here.

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