The Bridge for Youth Visits BSM, discusses teen homelessness


photo by Angela Hickman, BSM marketing and communications department

Dan Pharr from The Bridge from Youth addresses a group of BSM students in the chapel, after school on Wedensday, December 10, to discuss the topic of youth homelessness.

Carolina Jimnez , Staff Writer

On Wednesday, December 10th, BSM President Kevin Gyolai hosted Dan Pfarr and Stephanie Svee, representatives from The Bridge for Youth. The Bridge was at BSM to discuss teen homelessness and how students can help to solve the issue. Dan Pfarr presented his organization to a small group of students and staff in the chapel after school. Pfarr centered the discussion around the efforts The Bridge takes to combat teen homelessness and how students at BSM can help their efforts.

Dr. Gyolai’s idea to host The Bridge stemmed from the new lobby whiteboard on which students have written issues that they are passionate about. “I think students have to find a place to start [when they want to solve an issue]. Get together, and talk, and have a conversation about how they can have an impactful difference, and then to ask,” said Dr. Gyolai. He saw that many students want to aid people who are homeless, and took the next step to action. “I have that shared passion [of solving teen homelessness], so all I did was contact my friend Dan Pfarr from The Bridge for Youth and ask him to come here. And hopefully that was a spark that ignited some action and interest in students,” said Gyolai.

Pfarr opened his presentation with how The Bridge helps homeless youth. The non profit serves kids of all ages, but most of their focus is on 7th to 12th graders, as well as 18 to 21 year-olds. The Bridge serves approximately 1,000 teens a year and has been the longest running LGBTQ shelter since the 1990’s. “I have known a few statistics about homelessness specifically, for me, the 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ identified. That’s really impactful for me, because that’s a community that I work very closely with. And so, to have that be brought up again is really important for me to realize that this is an issue that is impacting my community that I care a lot about, and establish that personal connection as to why I want to be working on it,” said Parker Breza, Justice Club Co-Captain and aspiring ally to The Bridge.

This year, The Bridge is introducing new features to it’s program, such as a texting hotline and website. The website, which will debut after the New Year, will feature a program that locates an open bead in a shelter closest to you, as well as offering parenting tips. The text line offers an easier and more modern way for kids to communicate with The Bridge. “What we hope [with the text line] is that we can resolve the crisis before it gets too serious. That’s our goal with the crisis center,” said Pfarr.

Pfarr and Svee believe that BSM can help The Bridge in 3 different ways: “Everything from political advocacy, advocacy, to donations,” said Pfarr. The easiest way to help it to donate to the program. “That’s a $25 gift card for cell phone minutes that could save someone’s life. I’ve known kids who trade sex for cell phone minutes. I’ve paid for cell phone minutes so that that won’t happen,” said Pfarr. BSM can also help The Bridge by publicizing their text line and the upcoming website launch, as well as donating to the program and starting awareness of teen homelessness in our own communities. “You have so much power in that area of technology and communication. You can help us understand where it’s going,” said Stephanie Svee, the Communications and Marketing Manager for The Bridge.

At the end of the discussion, buzz among the attendees on how to engage The Bridge at BSM began to break out. Attending Justice Club and Diversity Club members began to pledge how their groups could work in a partnership with The Bridge to educate a wider student body and organize events for advocacy about teen homelessness and donating to programs that benefit kids in the situation. “We definitely want to [help solve teen homelessness]. I think the justice club would be a really good way to engage the student body in it because in the past we’ve had a lot of people to turn up to our panels so I feel like it’s a good way to engage the student body. I definitely want to do something whether it’s with my poetry or if it’s with educating people on this topic, because I think it’s extremely important because these are people in our community being affected,” said Justice Club member Zeph Kaffey.