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Fact Sheet


Posted Date: March 30, 2005

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Bridges To Work Demonstration Linking Inter-City Residents to Metropolitan Wide Opportunities

What is Bridges to Work?

Bridges to Work (BtW) is a new empowerment research demonstration program that will operate for 4 years in Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Milwaukee, and St. Louis. BtW is administered jointly by Public/Private Ventures (P/PV), a Philadelphia-based nonprofit research and program development organization, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The initiative connects inner-city work-ready residents with suburban employment opportunities through local partners that provide job placement, transportation, and support services. BtW will assist lower income, inner-city residents in becoming self-sufficient and working toward strengthening regional economies.

How did the idea for BtW originate?

With initial foundation funding, P/PV examined the link between inner-city poverty and unemployment and the suburbanization of employment over three decades within 20 metropolitan areas. Building on this research and with additional support from HUD and the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Transit Authority (DOT/FTA), P/PV developed BtW as a research demonstration to link poor but work-ready inner-city residents with suburban jobs.

Why is BtW needed?

Through its initial research, P/PV found a severe problem of spatial mismatch occurring between poor households concentrated in large cities and the increasing number of employers located in the surrounding suburbs.

  • In 1990 inner-city poverty rates were from two to five times higher than those in the suburbs of the Nation's eight largest metropolitan areas. In five of the eight areas, inner-city unemployment rates were twice those of the suburbs.
  • In six of the eight largest metropolitan areas, more than two-thirds of the jobs created during the 1980s were located in the suburbs. In three of these areas (Chicago, Detroit, and Philadelphia) all net growth was in the suburbs.

BtW will link poor, inner-city residents with productive, higher wage jobs in outlying areas of job growth. The BtW program will examine how unemployed and underemployed inner-city residents and suburban employers seeking qualified workers may benefit from this linkage.

What is BtW expected to achieve?

BtW is intended as a "win-win" initiative that complements other important urban policy strategies. Its goals are as follows:

  • Low-income city residents will gain access to private-sector jobs that will enable them to become self-sufficient and to import wages back into their city neighborhoods.
  • Suburban employers will see the inner city as a source of work.
  • Regional transportation providers will learn the value of increased market share as a result of the additional city-to-suburb ridership generated by the program and be willing to initiate new services to support "reverse commuting."
  • Federal, State, and local policy-makers will discover the value of coordinated, comprehensive, time-limited services on a metropolitan scale and incorporate these benefits into their planning for programs in housing assistance, employment training and placement, transportation, support services, and land use.

What are the components of a BtW program?

Each BtW site has an identified geographic origin (a low-income, inner-city neighborhood) and a destination (a suburban job opportunity site). As BtW participants, work-ready inner-city residents will receive enhanced program services provided through BtW's three key program elements:

  • Placement in existing, private suburban jobs through a metropolitan employment placement mechanism.
  • A targeted commute connecting workers to otherwise inaccessible suburban job locations.
  • Support services, such as counseling, crisis intervention, and child care, to ensure that workers can sustain these connections and to mitigate any demands created by the suburban commute.

The BtW model also requires each site to form regional partnerships called collaboratives, which typically include a lead community-based organization, a transportation provider, nonprofit service providers, a metropolitan planning organization (MPO), and/or a city-suburban government agency.

How were the BtW project sites selected?

From its initial research of the Nation's 20 largest metropolitan areas, P/PV identified 10 areas that had both significant spatial mismatch and the local capacity to address these gaps. With support from five foundations, HUD, and DOT, P/PV allocated small planning grants to the 10 target sites to develop their local program plans. Using standard selection criteria, P/PV chose the five strongest plans.

What is the demonstration timeframe?

BtW's 4-year research and demonstration phase is scheduled to commence in September 1996 with a 3- to 6-month pilot phase. Implementation is projected to begin no later than January 1997. The program is scheduled to conclude in December 2000, but if successful, all five sites will continue their BtW operations using existing Federal, State, and local resources.

Who funds BtW, and how much does it cost?

BtW is funded through the support of foundations, the Federal government, and local resources.

Predemonstration costs include:

  • Spatial mismatch studies -- $300,000: the Ford and MacArthur Foundations.
  • Design of the BtW concept and development of 10 BtW site plans -- $1,500,000 from the Ford Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trust, the Rockefeller Foundation, HUD, and DOT/FTA.

Demonstration costs include:

  • Five demonstration programs -- $11 million over 4 years, including $8 million from HUD and $3 million in local matches.
  • Research and development -- $5.9 million from the Ford Foundation and HUD/Office of Policy Development and Research (Rockefeller Foundation and MacArthur Foundation support is pending).

What methodology will be used in program research?

BtW is a rigorous, experimental research effort guided by P/PV. The research will evaluate the BtW impact on earnings and employment, document the potential of regional BtW partnerships and job placement mechanisms, and measure the value of time-limited services and the reduced dependence on long-term government supports.

A competitively selected, independent research firm will randomly assign 800 participants at 4 BtW sites into treatment and control groups and will conduct baseline and followup surveys. These four experimental sites -- Baltimore, Denver, Milwaukee, and St. Louis -- will each place and maintain 400 people from the treatment group who will receive BtW enhanced services and 400 from the control group who will rely on existing services. Chicago, the sole scale BtW site, will attempt to place 1,500 workers without random assignment and will document issues and challenges involved in attempting to place as many persons as possible using enhanced BtW strategies.

Is BtW related to other Federal, State, and local jobs initiatives?

In addition to building on local level programs supported under other Federal or State initiatives, BtW has brought together unprecedented partnerships among city and suburban service delivery areas and private industry councils that administer the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA), State and local human service providers, and regional transportation providers. Baltimore and Chicago BtW programs are linked directly to the HUD Empowerment Zone initiatives, and the St. Louis program is involved in Enterprise Community activities. As such, BtW is one of three complementary national strategies designed to offer low-income residents the opportunity for independence and self-sufficiency. The other strategies include:

  • Community Revitalization. Expansion of jobs and employment in economically distressed areas such as Empowerment Zones, Enterprise Communities, or Jobs Plus Initiatives in public housing projects.
  • Moving to Opportunity. Relocation opportunities for poor persons receiving Federal housing assistance to move into safer communities with better schools and jobs.

Other Federal jobs initiatives will play a role in BtW. These include the JTPA one-stop service centers and HUD's Jobs Plus Initiatives for public housing residents.

How can I learn more about BtW?

For information about Bridges to Work, contact Beth Palubinsky or Joseph Tierney, the project's codirectors at P/PV, at (215) 557-4400.

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