A Commitment to Care

Feb 17, 2016 | by Laura Poff

Pathway-jumpThis is the second in a series of articles featuring the USA Southern Territory's implementation of the national social services initiative, Pathway of Hope.

By partnering with its Boys and Girls Club, the Durham, North Carolina, Corps easily identifies families who qualify for the Pathway of Hope initiative. The POH initiative – a national social services initiative that helps families overcome intergenerational poverty – was rolled out in the USA South in spring 2015.

Durham began its foray into the rollout in June with Sherri Bluett. She's a single mom with two kids, who were already members of the Boys and Girls Club, and that's how she discovered Pathway of Hope.

"We use our Boys and Girls Club to collaborate with social services," said Captain Robert Viera, corps officer with wife Captain Glenis Viera. "Some of the families came because our staff members – through tutoring and our after-school program – have identified who may be eligible."

Once the Bluett family was referred to the POH caseworker and initial interviews were complete, Sherry Bluett met all the requirements and began her journey. "She was struggling with her mortgage, which she was left with after her marriage dissolved and she was working part-time. Since she's been part of the program, she's been able to transition from part-time to full-time employment," said Captain Viera.

A tenet of the POH initiative is its ability to garner collaborations in the local community. Most communities want to alleviate – not just manage – poverty. An example is the Durham Corps' collaboration with Habitat for Humanity. Now, Bluett's family is on the list to have a home built by HFH.

Captain Viera commended Bluett for being a "standout participant" who attends all meetings and even helps represent The Salvation Army at board meetings and various events. "She's done some video clips and has been a key person to advertise the program," he said.

Bluett isn't the only one who has thrived. Her daughter, Neesha, who is 9, was struggling at school, depressed and having a difficult time after her mom and dad's divorce. Now, she's making excellent grades in school and is in a positive mentoring program; she has college aspirations and hope for her future.

Another partnership that's helping the Durham Pathway of Hope initiative is its relationship with United Way. United Way has a program in the local schools, and in one particular school it identified four families who are good POH candidates. "So our Pathway of Hope caseworker is setting up initial interviews that have been brought through an outside organization," said Captain Viera. "We have collaborations with everybody; with our regular social services, there are a lot of things we can't do or we're out of funding for, so we've always been in the habit of referring to other agencies and organizations. That all carries over to Pathway of Hope. Whether they are organizations or church groups, collaborations aren't limited."

Captain Viera said the POH initiative has been so transformative that the Durham Corps has altered its social services guidelines to reflect it. "If a family comes in to seek financial assistance, (the new guideline says) you can do that up to two years and that's it – because in the past we've had families coming to us for eight or nine years. We feel that it's more impactful to focus on a smaller group that is committed to making a change. It's more effective for them, but also a better stewardship of the money and donations we receive. Our donors are going to be very pleased as they see the families climb the ladder of this program – those successes are a lot more valuable than one-time annual routine assistance."

Another key to the initiative's success, he said, is its customization. Each family is different, has a variety of needs and comes from a unique situation. So the case management identifies all the factors through the management tools, assessments and regular communication to meet each family's set of needs.

One of the clients had a spouse pass away suddenly who had taken care of everything – from finances and bills to legal proceedings and meetings. So the client's caseworker is attending meetings with the family's head-of-household since it's a new, uncharted role.

The message that this kind of attention sends is that The Salvation Army is committed to each family.

"We're going to come alongside of you, even if it's just to support you and be by your side as you make this transition," said Captain Viera.

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