Residents at Bridge House work on repairs in their apartments.

The Bridge House Transformation Project is entering its second semester of transforming The Bridge’s Barton Street property and along with it, the lives of its residents seeking to reintegrate into the community.  The renovation project is an initiative of The Bridge whereby recently incarcerated men who are accessing its reintegration services are being employed by The Bridge to perform repairs and other property improvements to their own residences at Bridge House.

The project launched in mid-September when three residents of Bridge House began training under an instructor from the Threshold School of Building, who is partnering with The Bridge to supervise and train the clients who  The Bridge employs for this.  Since then, these three residents have been accomplishing important work around the house and also gaining paid employment experience and renovation skills.  One resident even used his position with the project as a launching pad into a permanent full-time position which he received with a reference from his renovation supervisor at The Bridge.  During the duration of the project, which will be 24 weeks in total, the same arrangement will be offered to six more clients, three in each of the two remaining 8-week semesters.

The full collection of tools and house repair materials donated by Mount Hamilton Baptist Church

For most clients participating in the project, The Bridge now serves as their first employer since their release from incarceration with criminal records.  This is a critical first step for men looking to be restored to their communities long-term. Additional benefits of this project in their lives include an earned income as well as an improved residential environment during their transitional stay at Bridge House – improvements which will also benefit all future men who access those services from The Bridge.  Lastly, all clients employed in the project are receiving tools like steel-toed boots, work belts and more through donations from Mount Hamilton Baptist Church and funding from the Christian Labour Association of Canada.

One resident who is graduating from the project at the end of this first semester noted how much he appreciated the training and supervision he received from the Threshold instructor.  “We’re lucky that we got him for this job,” the man said, “he’s great!”

A new bathroom counter stands out against a freshly painted wall

We are very grateful to the Hamilton Future Fund, who made this project possible with a grant worth over $58,000. Bridge House, which was constructed in 1889, has undergone much-needed improvement through the Bridge House Transformation Project, An old wooden emergency staircase at the back of the house has been completely replaced.  Inside the house, a bathroom has been re-done, drywall has been replaced or repaired and is just about ready for paint, and a radiator was repaired.  Clients have  been trained and performing work related to taping, plastering, carpentry cabinet work and more. It is exciting to see the changes, both to the house, and to the men involved in the program.