Sister Rita Steinhagen, a nun with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, lived with a group of her fellow sisters in Minneapolis in the 1970’s. When she started noticing a large number of runaway youth in their neighborhood, she took it upon herself to help them. She offered them shelter in the nuns’ home until they could be reunited with their families. Before too long, she realized there was a greater need than their house could meet, so she sought out a more permanent space.
That is the beginning of The Bridge for Youth, with the purchase of a large house on the corner 22nd & Emerson in 1974. The house was able to offer shelter to both boys and girls and actively worked to reunite children with their families. As the program grew, it eventually separated from the sisters, forming its own nonprofit organization.
From there, The Bridge quickly became a national leader in homeless youth services. They offered many services including an innovative crisis hotline, where youth can still call to get help. They continued to expand their impact, partnering with other youth homeless resources in the area to form the Youth Services Network www.ysnmn.org. This network is able to refer youth to members with open space in case the closest resource is full. It has expanded to offer an app that allows youth to check availability without wasting a long and sometimes expensive trip.
Today, The Bridge for Youth has expanded its reach and also its offerings. They now offer emergency shelters for youth, transitional housing, work readiness training, family counseling, and support groups. Throughout their history, their relationship with their neighborhood has been key to their success. Through generous donations and support, The Bridge was able to open Rita’s House in 2018.
Rita’s House is an independent living facility for youth that functions as an independent community. Young adults ages 18-21 rent below-market-rate bedrooms and receive support as they work, attend school, and learn how to live independently. Rita’s House is yet another example of how The Bridge for Youth stays at the front of the pack of youth homeless services.
If you’d like to get involved with The Bridge for Youth, they stress that donations are very important to their success. The average cost for The Bridge for a night at the shelter is $250/night. They also welcome volunteers at their Youth Resource Center answering calls and texts as well as in-kind donations of used items and items on their Target registry.