The mission of Miami Bridge Youth and Family Services Inc. is to promote positive youth development and strengthen and support families to enable children to reach their full potential to become productive community members.
Our organization is driven by the vision of a community in which every child is able to access the full range of social, educational and institutional opportunities necessary to succeed in life.
We adhere to the philosophic tenet that strong and healthy families are the building blocks of our society. A society is judged by the manner in which it cares for its most vulnerable members. We believe the barometer that measures the level of future community prosperity is the well-being of today’s children.
Miami Bridge’s services are designed to assist families in opening lines of communication, enabling parents and guardians to develop the skills necessary to assume the responsibility of providing guidance and structure for their children while empowering them with the knowledge and skills necessary to redirect at-risk children.Our youth development services provide opportunities for youngsters to discover their strengths and talents, set personal goals, make positive choices and develop the strength and resiliency necessary to successfully overcome the challenges that confront them.
To demonstrate our commitment to ensure the safety and well-being of youth and families, we provide the “Miami Bridge Code of Guiding Principles,” which was adopted by our Board of Directors in 1997. This Code of Guiding Principles details our commitment to providing services that are result-oriented, child/family centered, customer driven, performance-based and community-based.
Under Catholic CharitiesRichard “Dick” Moran founded Miami Bridge Youth & Family Services in 1974 as part of Catholic Charities and was a leading force in helping homeless youth in South Florida. The Bridge’s original site was an old, dilapidated hotel in Downtown Miami. Reports from those who worked as housekeepers in the mid-70s recalled that approximately 3,000 kids were assisted in its first three years. Just like today, its mission was to assist youth who were runaways, abandoned, or caught up in the justice system.
In the late 1970s, Miami Bridge moved to a building in Liberty City. Prior to the move, Charles Barr, a counselor during the mid-70s, says the biggest concerns at the time were ensuring that weapons were not brought into the shelter and that the kids remained safe.
Dick Moran and the History of Miami Bridge
Dick Moran attended the University of Notre Dame, where he played football. He moved to Miami in 1959 and embarked on what would become a distinguished career. Moran served as dean of students at Biscayne College, now known as St. Thomas University; taught criminal justice at Miami-Dade Community College; was superintendent of Dade County’s Youth Hall; and opened a methadone clinic before beginning his work with the homeless and runaways. He was also an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps reserve, working his way up to lieutenant colonel, during a 25-year career.
In 1975, Moran launched the Bridge, an Archdiocese of Miami temporary shelter for runaways in the county. He guided the program during its growth as well as when it split from the archdiocese in 1985.
His daughter, Margarette Moran Joffe, says the view of homelessness in the 1950s was centered on a very narrow mindset. She states that many people thought that being homeless was somehow the fault of the individual—that they were either a cheat, prostitute, troublemaker, or addict. However, that was far from the truth in many of the cases involving the youth at the shelter, some having been abandoned and left to fend on their own.
The concept of providing resources to homeless kids during the 1970s was novel, but Miami Bridge was one of the first nonprofits to help in this way.
Below Joffe shares her experience and memories of Miami Bridge. Coming from a family with five kids, Joffe says they always celebrated Thanksgiving at the shelter with the youth before celebrating it in their own home.
As Assistant Director of Miami Bridge at the time, Alice Davis remembered Moran as a “wonderful, irrepressible person.” She adds, “He cared very deeply about youth and the difficult situations they were in.” In July 1985, Moran headed to Washington, D.C. to advocate for homeless reform before Congress, sharing stories of both the challenges and successes of the children at Miami Bridge. He was so dedicated to this cause that the Coalition for the Homeless created the Dick Moran “Peace and Love” Award, which was first given to State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle in 1992.
In the 1980s, however, Miami Bridge began to struggle. Various members from the community came together to try and save the Bridge including the Key Biscayne Women’s Club, the Rotary Club of Key Biscayne, and others. In 1985 they were able to raise over a million dollars and, together with a state grant, were able to make Miami Bridge its own organization, separate from Catholic Charities. Miami Bridge then moved from Downtown Miami to campuses in Miami and Homestead. Today, each campus consists of a residential emergency shelter a school building for on-campus learning and features community-based services for local youth and their families.