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After nine years, Isabel McDevitt is leaving her role as chief executive officer of Boulder’s Bridge House.

McDevitt first began as a volunteer at the Carriage House, which for a decade served as Boulder’s primary daytime source of shelter and food for people experiencing homelessness. She was then hired as executive director of Bridge House, which jointly operated the Carriage House.

From left, Widd Medford, Ben Ziegler, Isabel McDevitt and Dee Dee Sease stand for a photo after a Ready to Work graduation ceremony. McDevitt is stepping down after nine years as the CEO of Boulder Bridge House. (Courtesy photo)

At Bridge House, McDevitt founded the Ready to Work program, now the organization’s mainstay. Ready to Work offers a yearlong program with paid work, housing and case management support. Trainees graduate with a job and permanent housing.

McDevitt learned about the “work works” model while employed at the Doe Fund in New York. She is returning to take a senior position at the Doe Fund, which operates a program similar to Ready to Work called Ready, Willing and Able.

McDevitt said the Ready to Work program serves as a complement to Boulder’s more traditional housing first model, which prioritizes housing above all else.

“Our specialty has been around providing services for people that are not eligible for other more traditional housing services,” McDevitt said.

When she began, Bridge House had an operating budget of about $450,000 and zero assets. Now, the organization has two housing developments, a community kitchen and a $6 million operating budget. Although Bridge House’s success isn’t measured by the size of its budget, McDevitt does believe its growth is indicative of its impact.

However, there is still work to be done, particularly in terms of collaborating on solutions that can be agreed upon by community members and city officials but are still helpful in providing stability and support for those experiencing homelessness.

“It is no secret that homelessness is not yet solved, so I think it’s incumbent upon Bridge House, all of the homeless service providers, policy makers and the community at large to continue to really develop not only innovative programs but effective programs and to maximize use of the assets that we have,” McDevitt said.

While the organization has been successful in convening various facets of the community, McDevitt said there’s still more to do in that regard. It’s going to require working directly with people experiencing homelessness and those with lived experience, she said.

“I don’t think we’ve met our goal in terms of really helping the community develop a continuum that can truly address all of the needs of not only people experiencing homelessness but the community at large as it relates to homelessness,” she said.

Those who worked with McDevitt at Bridge House used similar language when describing her. Namely, they said she’s as authentic as it gets.

“What you see is absolutely what you get,” said Melissa Green, who is taking over after McDevitt leaves Dec. 31.

Widd Medford agreed, noting McDevitt speaks to Ready to Work clients in the same way she speaks to policymakers and potential donors.

“She’s just the same person all the time,” said Medford, who now serves as chief program officer.

Medford and Green have been with Bridge House since 2015, and McDevitt’s departure means both will take on more responsibility.

“Both (Medford and Green) have been instrumental in serving thousands of people experiencing homelessness, including the 275 people who have successfully completed our Ready to Work programs, graduating to their own apartments and jobs after living and working with us for one year,” the Bridge House board of directors wrote in a statement.

But Medford and Green expect a seamless transition, considering the leadership team already worked closely together and McDevitt had for some time been working remotely from Pennsylvania.

“There’s not really much new there that I will be taking on,” Green said. “It’s mostly just losing the face of Isabel.”

Moving forward, Bridge House officials hope to continue the expansion of its Ready to Work program, which now operates in Boulder and Aurora. The Bridge House team said they believe a partnership with McDevitt in her new role at the Doe Fund could help them move closer toward that goal.

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