Giving Back

Hollywood Anderson, American Idol Contestant and Former Homeless Teen, Keynotes Bridges' Teen Conference on Homelessness, Feb. 20

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Conference keynote speaker Hollywood Anderson during his appearance on American Idol.
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SUMMIT, NJ - Themed this year as "Homeless to Housed," Summit-based Bridges Outreach's Seventh annual "Teens Tackle Homelessness Conference" will be held on February 20, from 3:30 to 6 p.m. at Kent Place School.

The conference's keynote speaker will be Hollywood Anderson, the formerly homeless singer / songwriter who brought judge Jennifer Lopez to tears during his American Idol audition.

In addition, teens on the steering committee will run interactive games designed to illustrate the hardships faced by people living in poverty.

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Anderson became homeless when his parents divorced while he was a teenager in Florida. He eventually made his way to New York, where he sang to earn enough to feed himself.

At Covenant House, he found shelter and was given his first guitar, which he taught himself to play. Anderson then auditioned for, and was chosen to be a contestant on, American Idol. He will share his personal story at the conference.

Founded in 1988, Bridges reaches out to homeless people in Manhattan and Newark and Irvington every week. In 2015, Bridges served 21,000 people, with more than 2,600 volunteers of all ages helping to deliver more than 63,000 brown bag lunches, serving more than 49,000 cups of beverages, providing 10,000 pairs of new socks and underwear, and giving 1,000 new backpacks to children in need.

Bridges also runs Project Connect in Newark, which offers case management services that link homeless people to health and social services to lead to a healthier life and, ultimately, employment and housing. The ID program assists clients in obtaining New Jersey State IDs, essential to obtaining social service benefits, a job, or even a shelter bed.

The "Teens Tackle Homelessness" steering committee is comprised of more than 30 teens from over 15 area high schools. The committee creates and conducts the annual conference to educate teens about homelessness. In addition to the event, the committee plans and conducts their own Bridges Runs and events for sheltered children.  Many of the students assume leadership roles, and their work helps Bridges to "bring the housed and homeless together in community."

To register for the conference, visit bridgesoutreach.org. Registration is free, if completed in advance, with a fee of $10 if registering at the door on the day of the event. The conference is open to high school students only.

For more information about Bridges Outreach and the "Teens Tackle Homelessness" steering committee, visit bridgesoutreach.org, or contact Dan RosenHanst, Director of Operations, via volunteerbridges@gmail.com, or by calling 908-273-0176.

Kent Place School is located at 42 Norwood Avenue.

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