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Welcome New Board Members!

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We are pleased to welcome three new members to our Board of Directors.

KrisBlack_full body_quaretine Oberg
Kristine is a vice-president of strategic planning for Elavon, Inc., a subsidiary of U.S. Bank. She holds a B.A. in English from St. Olaf College, an M.A. in English Literature from University of Wisconsin and an M.S. in the Management of Technology from the University of Minnesota.  She serves on the board of the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra and was formerly its treasurer. She volunteers in the GED program for YouthLink. Kristine is also a violist with the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra and an avid cyclist. Kristine has three children, Will, Mara and Rachel, and lives in Bloomington.


Brittany PratherBrittany Prather -cropped
Brittany is a Recruiter a Thrivent Financial in Minneapolis where she partners with corporate hiring managers to bring in the best talent to the organization. She is also the Community Outreach Director on the Board for the Thrivent Young Professional’s Network. Brittany holds a B.A. in Communication Studies from the University of Minnesota and an MBA from Bethel University. It is her personal mission to enhance others’ lives through giving back to the best of her ability. Serving on the Bridge for Youth board aligns with her passion for outreach where she can contribute her HR, marketing and business skills.


SarSarah Sanchez1ah Sanchez
Sarah is a Community Representative in the district office of Congressman Keith Ellison where she has worked since May 2011. She is responsible for outreach related to women’s issues, youth development and education as well as federal casework with various agencies including the Department of Education, Department of Labor and the IRS. Sarah also has a passion for criminal justice reform and understanding the impact of incarceration on families and communities. She is originally from Chicago and came to Minnesota in 2009 as a transfer student from Arizona State University. She received her BS in Family Social Science with a minor in Family Violence Prevention from the University of Minnesota. Sarah enjoys cooking, reading, hiking in Minnesota’s state parks and playing tenor sax in a symphonic ensemble with her husband.

The Bridge for Youth Announces Hiring of Jennifer Harding as Director of Development

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Jennifer Harding

Jennifer Harding, Director of Development, The Bridge for Youth

The Bridge for Youth are pleased to announce that Jennifer Harding will be joining us as our new Director of Development! Jenny brings to The Bridge for Youth (Th Bridge) more than 20 years of experience in nonprofit development and fundraising. Her experience includes having served as the Development Director at the Children’s Law Center, MELD and WATCH. In addition, she has served as a Gifts Officer for Augustana Care, the Associate Director of Corporate Giving for the Guthrie Theater and Development Manager at the Page Education Foundation among other positions. Her wide-ranging experience includes consulting with and working for organizations committed to legal services, human services and education. Jenny also has volunteered in various capacities in the nonprofit sector. Jenny holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Dartmouth College. When she is not at work, Jenny enjoys spending time with friends and family including her rescue dog Jackson. She is particularly passionate about child welfare, youth issues and social justice and is excited to be joining The Bridge! Jenny will be a great asset to The Bridge for Youth and its fundraising efforts, we look forward to her starting her new position in mid-August.

New Program Director Announced

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Joan Countryman, Program Director, The Bridge for Youth

The Bridge for Youth is pleased to announce the promotion of Joan Countryman from Program Manager to Program Director.

 In her new executive role, Joan is responsible for directing all agency programming and operations. This includes leading a staff of 45 and a volunteer team of 50.
Programs include:
  • Two Emergency Shelters located in Minneapolis and Chanhassen (20 beds)
  • 10-bed Transitional Living Program for older teens
  • Crisis Response Center including the fast-growing (612) 400-SAFE crisis text line and, a web app connecting youth with available, location-specific shelter beds.
Since joining The Bridge in 2013, Joan has held significant roles in the organization including Emergency Shelter Manager and Manager of Outreach and Innovation. Joan recently led The Bridge’s successful roll out of (612) 400-SAFE and
“Joan’s 30 years of social service experience and her proven ability to deliver positive outcomes will serve The Bridge well.” said Michelle Basham, Executive Director. “Her expertise helps ensure that our programs are financially sustainable.”
In addition to a 14-year tenure managing programs for Episcopal Community Services, Joan founded the youth program at Cornerstone Advocacy.  Her accomplishments also include developing a statewide model mobilizing volunteers to lend assistance to homeless families and those living in poverty.
About The Bridge for Youth
 Founded in 1970, The Bridge for Youth provides safe shelter and support for runaway, homeless and abandoned youth, ages 10-17.Serving nearly 1,000 youth each year, The Bridge is the Twin Cities largest provider of emergency and extended-stay shelter for children in crisis in the Twin Cities with locations in Minneapolis and Chanhassen.  Additional services include walk-in and by-appointment counseling for youth and families, a new 24-hour crisis text line for teens and families called (612) 400-SAFE, and, a web app connecting at-risk youth with available, location-specific shelter beds and crisis services.


BFY’s “So What if I Am?” Stays Strong after 20 years

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franEvery Tuesday evening for the past 20 plus years, Twin City’s LGBTQ+ youth have met and been supported by a team of BFY LGBTQ+ specialists.

Currently, Fran Drazan and Sawyer Franklin run the group. Recently, they shared their thoughts and vision for the group.

What is your general role as a co – facilitator?

We are there to provide resources and knowledge when needed specific to the needs of LGBTQ youth.

sawyerWhy do you think it has been successful for so long?

Consistency. So What if I Am? has stayed connected to its roots and the goal of providing a safe space for LGBTQ youth to build connection and community with one another. It is so important for LGBTQ youth to have a space to simply be, so we work hard on making youth feel comfortable to be vulnerable and have fun with each other. There has been numerous times youth have come to So What if I Am? and told the group they didn’t have any friends or a support system before coming in.


What do you see LGTBQ kids struggling with today?
School, bullies, family conflict, homelessness, drugs and alcohol, safe sex, healthy relationships and friendships.



How is this support group different than others? Are there other groups out there?
So What if I Am? is dedicated to assisting LGBTQ youth in finding community with one-another, whereas some support groups focus on educating youth about large-scale issues and becoming activists. Both are important. The some-what laid back structure of So What if I Am? allows us as co-facilitators and the youth to discuss complex topics and issues that are affecting them in day-to-day life.
How do you see this group growing?
As per the youths request, So What if I Am? will soon be going on more outings. Some ideas the youth have had is going Quatrefoil Library or bowling.
Youth supporting each other even further. Youth are taking lead in creating an open space for each other – they continue to ask each other preferred pronouns and names.

If you are interested in joining our group or learning more, please click here!

The Bridge Adds New Board Members

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The Bridge for youth welcomed three new members this year to it’s Board of Directors.  “These individuals bring a wealth of experience in marketing, business development and technology and will help guide The Bridge as it continues to be a key resource in The Twin Cities for kids in crisis, “says Board Chair Scott Thomas-Forss,” We are excited to have their passion for helping the community and young people on our team.”

Welcome to all!

Amy_Asche (002)

Amy Asche

Amy has been employed at UPS for 15 years with various roles in sales, sales training, customer solutions and sales operations.

“As a board member, its’ important to me that we continue to expand a greater level of awareness to the issues that face our youth in our communities and how the great work that happens at The Bridge positively impacts so many young lives and families, ” Asche says, ” I am looking forward to being a part of an amazing group of community leaders focused on making a difference.”




Zoe Stern

Zoe Stern

Zoe Stern is the Associate Director for WE day Minnesota.  Prior to working for Free the Children she worked at Jewish Family and Children’s Service in fundraising and program development.  As a home grown Minnesotan, Zoe is excited and proud to be a new member of The Bridge board and looks forward to helping Minnesota youth.





anna waters

Anna Waters

Anna Waters brings over 15 years of experience in helping organizations enhance the effectiveness of their executives and leaders.  She currently works collaboratively with Korn Ferry’s clients and internal partners to effectively manage executive assessment and development engagements.

“It is a privilege to participate in something so relevant. All kids deserve to feel safe and if they don’t, it is our responsibility to make sure we have the support systems in place for them. I can’t wait to contribute to this endeavor, “says Waters about her new appointment as a new board member.

Board Names New Executive Director

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN – (December 21, 2015) The Bridge for Youth is pleased to announce the appointment of Michelle Basham as Executive Director of The Bridge for Youth, a Twin Cities non-profit providing emergency shelter and counseling for at-risk children under age 18.


Michelle Basham, MPA, JD, is currently Chief Executive Officer of the YWCA of Delaware. In 1993, she founded Avenues for Homeless Youth, serving as Executive Director for eight years.  Michelle later accepted a role with the Minnesota Department of Health and Human Services where she led high-level policy initiatives as Manager of Strategic Planning and Special Projects.  Michelle served as Executive Director for FamilyWise, an organization providing comprehensive family strengthening and support services, and served as Vice President at CommonBond Communities, the largest provider of affordable housing in the Upper Midwest.


Michelle has a Master’s in Public Administration from Hamline University School of Business, a Juris Doctor from Hamline University School of Law, and a Bachelor of Arts from Augsburg College.


“Michelle’s well-rounded executive leadership skills will be an asset to The Bridge as we continue in a very significant growth phase.” said Board Chair Scott Thomas-Forss. “Michelle has a strong, personal commitment to advancing the mission of The Bridge and is an ideal leader to guide the next chapter in The Bridge’s history.”


In addition, Michelle launched the Minnesota Runaway and Homeless Youth Coalition and co-founded the Nonprofit Emerging Leaders Academy. She has received numerous awards including the City of Minneapolis Award and the Outstanding Young Minnesotans/Americans from the Jaycees. She completed a fellowship at the Humphrey Institute Public Policy Forum, exploring women and people of color in political leadership

About the Bridge for Youth:

Founded in 1970, The Bridge for Youth provides safe shelter and support for runaway, homeless and abandoned youth, ages 10-17.

Serving nearly 1,000 youth each year, The Bridge is the Twin Cities largest provider of emergency and extended-stay shelter for children in crisis in the Twin Cities with locations in Minneapolis and Chanhassen.  Additional services include walk-in and by-appointment counseling for youth and families, and operation of (612) 400-SAFE, a 24-hour text-for-help hotline for teens.

Text Hotline for Teens Launches at The Bridge for Youth

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SEPTEMBER 9, 2015–MINNEAPOLIS –The Bridge for Youth launched its new 24-hour texting hotline for teens and families today.  The crisis hotline, (612) 400-SAFE, is staffed round the clock by professional staff and volunteers, trained to de-escalate crisis, provide emotional support, and connect youth and families with critical resources.

Volunteers at The Bridge for Youth provide counseling via text to youth in crisis with “With 400-SAFE, kids can connect with us anywhere, at any time,” said Ali Kier, Youth Response Center Supervisor at The Bridge for Youth.  “They can text us at school or from any unsafe situation at home or on the street.”

The new service gives teens a safe, anonymous way to communicate difficult information  — and get help.  Staff and hotline volunteers are trained to address a wide variety of sensitive topics including bullying, family conflict, homelessness, violence, sexual exploitation, anxiety, depression, gender identity issues, self-harm, and suicide.

With cell phone use at an all-time high for teens, introducing a texting crisis counseling program is well-timed. Pew Research reports in their 2015 study on youth and social media that a typical teen sends 30 texts per day. And, in today’s wired world, only 12% of 10-17 year olds say they don’t have access to a cell phone. Teen cell phone ownership is highest among African American teens, with 85% reporting they own a smart phone.

The biggest challenge facing The Bridge for Youth now is to get the word out to teens about the service. “Our hope is that friends will tell friends and (612) 400-SAFE will get entered as a contact into a lot of cell phones.  It’s a tool that can save someone’s life. We want every kid to know this number,” said Kier.

The Bridge for Youth is seeking volunteers to help staff the crisis line at its Youth Response Center in Minneapolis.  Click here for more information.

Developed by software development firm DevJam, 400-SAFE was funded with grant support from Target, Microsoft, Shavlik Family Foundation, Youthprise, Pohlad Family Foundation, the State of Minnesota, and RBA.





The Bridge for Youth Receives $120,000 from The Arise Project

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For Immediate Release



Bridge for Youth Contact:

Steph Svee, 612-230-6658,


The Bridge for Youth Receives $120,000 from the Arise Project


August 3, 2015

Minneapolis – The Bridge for Youth, a Minneapolis-based non-profit serving youth in crisis, is pleased to announce receipt of a 2-year grant totaling $120,000 from The Arise Project.

The Arise Project, a philanthropic initiative of Greater Twin Cities United Way, brings together LGBT professionals and allies to ignite action in the rainbow community. The group’s United Way contributions are earmarked to improve the lives of homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth.

A newly formed position at The Bridge for youth, LGBTQ Outreach Specialist, will be funded by the Arise Project. This will be one of four outreach specialties The Bridge will provide to our targeted youth. Other specialists will focus on and include African American, systems involved and sexually exploited youth.

The Bridge will continue to provide n a private room for transgender youth in the agency’s 24-hour Emergency Shelter and in its longer term housing program, Transitions. Funds support “So What if I Am?”, the agency’s LGBT teen support group, the longest, continuous running support group of its kind in the Twin Cities. Hosted at The Bridge’s Minneapolis facility, the group draws youth from as far away as Stillwater. Funds also support the newly created PACE (Parent and Caregiver Empowerment) support group for parents of LGBTQ youth. This new parent support group is an outgrowth of work funded by Arise in 2014-2105 including our parent forum held in fall of 2014.

“With support from the Arise Project, we are able to provide needed support for our LGTBQ homeless youth and their families. We value and appreciate our relationship with them,” said Janet Hallaway, Director of Development at The Bridge for Youth.


With 400-SAFE, The Bridge’s new texting line being launched this fall, funding from ARISE will help support targeted campaign reaching youth and special populations including LBGTQ identified youth. Goal is to build awareness of 24 hour service for youth, encourage youth to enter text number in their contacts in their mobile phones, share with friends. 400-SAFE will be a gateway for youth to Services at the Bridge.

LGBT youth are disproportionately represented in the homeless community. While 10% of the general youth population identify as LGBT, 20-40% of homeless youth identify as LGBT. Family and community rejection continue to be a major factor in youth homelessness. Compared to their heterosexual peers, LGBT youth are at a greater risk for sexual abuse and have a significantly higher rate of suicide.

About The Bridge for Youth

Founded in 1970, The Bridge for Youth provides safe shelter and support for runaway, homeless and abandoned youth. Nearly 1,000 youth access services at The Bridge with 22 percent identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning…

Services include a 24-hour crisis hotline for youth and families, Emergency and extended-stay shelter for youth ages 10-17, walk-in or by-appointment counseling for youth and families, and a drop-in Tuesday teen health clinic.   All services are free and confidential.



Shelter and Services Now in Palm of (Homeless) Youths’ Hands

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YSN Mobile PhotoFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – June 16, 2015

Shelter and Services Now in Palm of (Homeless) Youths’ Hands

Youth Services Network Launches, Web Application that Connects

Homeless Youth to Shelter Beds and Critical Services

This is a dilemma faced by many Twin Cities youth experiencing homelessness every day — a youth does not have a stable place to call home and is searching for a safe bed. The youth calls shelter after shelter to no avail. They’re all full. The next day is the same: call after call, using up precious phone minutes.

But what if there was an easier way to connect these homeless youth to the vital resources they need, like shelter, outreach workers, drop-in resource centers and food? What if homeless youth could call an outreach worker directly or view shelter bed availability in real-time?

Enter The Youth Services Network (YSN), a collaboration of 12 nonprofit organizations supporting homeless youth in the Twin Cities, has developed a web-based application to simplify how homeless youth and their advocates search for shelter beds and other supports. shows all the youth-specific shelters in the Twin Cities – where beds are available, how to call the shelter and the bus route to take to get to the shelter via geo-location functionality. Youth may sign up to receive text or email notification when a bed becomes available, saving them from having to make the same repeated queries.

In addition to shelter bed availability, the following information is available through

 Locations and hours of drop-in centers where youth may connect with resources and supports.

 Access to the street and school outreach workers in each county by just clicking on the phone number provided for the workers on call at that time.

 Location and hours of other critical services, including teen clinics and youth food shelves.

“Quick access to support is everything for homeless youth,” according to Deborah Loon, executive director at Avenues for Homeless Youth. “The harsh reality for youth on the streets is that they will be

approached within 48 hours by someone seeking to exploit them. The YSN web application fills a big void in our network. It uses youth-friendly applications to give them much faster access to life-saving supports.”

Daniel Pfarr, executive director of The Bridge for Youth, added that the site is designed to help the broader community better support youth. “We expect staff and volunteers throughout the community to use to connect homeless youth with information and services,” said Pfarr. “Everyone supporting these young people now will have critical information at their fingertips through their mobile devices and computers. This includes outreach workers, drop-in center workers, librarians, school counselors and more. Anybody looking to help a young person get connected to supports will be able to visit the site.”

The site will provide data YSN and policymakers need to gauge the size of the homeless youth problem and make decisions about where to expand services. As this application was built, YSN wanted the ability to track null searches (no beds) to keep count of youth turned away. These statistics will help the organizations better support the population of youth experience housing instability.

YSNMN.ORG is a project of the Youth Services Network (YSN) whose members include: Ain Dah Yung Center, Avenues for Homeless Youth, The Bridge for Youth, Catholic Charities Hope Street, Face to Face, Hope 4 Youth, Lutheran Social Services, Oasis for Youth, Salvation Army Booth Brown House, The Streetworks Collaborative, Teens Alone, YMCA Youth Intervention Services and YouthLink.

Development of has been funded by a grant from Target. Additional funding is sought to support ongoing IT maintenance. The app can be found at Apple or Google Play stores for free download. For more information, visit


Daniel Pfarr, The Bridge for Youth,, 612-230-6659 (office) or 763-232-2253 (mobile).

Deborah Loon, Avenues for Homeless Youth,, 612-844-2002 (office) or 612-801-1935 (mobile).