LIFNAV: William Booth’s vision ‘revitalized’ for 21st century

Nov 22, 2021 | by Brad Rowland

LIFNAV: William Booth's vision ‘revitalized' for 21st century

By: Major Frank Duracher

The need has not changed. The only difference is a revolutionary approach to enabling homeless individuals and families secure a bright future using "out of the box" tactics.

The vision of LIFNAV is to reduce the days of homelessness experienced by resourcing quality of life goals. LIFNAV is The Salvation Army's process of using behavioral insights to reduce process barriers while strengthening paths to housing. The flexibility of the concept leads to successful outcomes. That flexibility, in fact, is key.

Three Southern commands (Leesburg, FL; Houston Area Command, TX; Nashville Area Command, TN) employ the ministry outreach, the brainchild of Major Ethan Frizzell, with the aim to "Engage—Empower—Equip" those in desperate need of a remedy resulting from homelessness:

  • Engage: provide basic resources like food, supplies, and if possible, emergency shelter options to build relationships of trust and belonging;
  • Empower: design their personal story to achieve their quality of life through guided journaling sessions. This allows participants to reflect on their past experiences, determine what their preferred life would look like, and then help them set smart plans of action to reach their goals;
  • Equip: provide tools and resources needed to put their plan into action.

In Leesburg's case, this is because soldiers have bought into the concept and are regularly staying connected and encouraging them to come along to corps events. In fact, the soldiers comprise a major outreach force in locating and identifying homeless persons who are willing to enter the program.

"Socially-displaced individuals experiencing homelessness are at risk and too often fall victim to extreme quality of life loss," explains Captain Chris Doborwicz, Leesburg corps officer. "Our team is run purely by a group of trained volunteers accompanied by a trained Case Management Specialist."

The primary goal, he adds, is to identify individuals experiencing homelessness, provide basic life-saving resources (shelter, food, water, PPE), develop social capital, conduct housing assessments, and have conversations with our chronic and long-term clients toward interest in permanent housing.

"Our outreach team goes out one or two times a month and averages 20-30 individuals served."

He compares LIFNAV to a medical triage — the results being quickly identifying the most critical needs and directing those toward appropriate remedies.

"For The Salvation Army of Lake and Sumter Counties, LIFNAV is proving to be a perfect fit for the needs of the community," said Captain Elyse Doborwicz. "Our soldiers have bought into the concept. Some of them keep up with clients they've identified and even bring them to corps activities, such as Men's Club, Women's Ministries, a seniors' lunch and craft program, prayer meetings, Bible studies—and if there are children involved, even youth activities."

Several conversions to Christ have resulted, to the joy of the corps family. Some of the children identified were sent to summer camp, and for the second Christmas now, food and toys were provided to families under LIFNAV's umbrella.

Captain Elyse says further that while families are sometimes identified, the numbers tend to be individuals who are chronically homeless and often have accompanying life-challenges, and the team works to solve each issue while aiming toward permanent housing.

When the team ventures forth, a fleet of Salvation Army vehicles, including canteens, do social service field work, driven client-centered journey.

LIVNAV is built on the philosophy of Pathway Of Hope, offering a continuum of care prioritizing the folks we identify, she says.

Referring to William Booth's admonition to "Do something!" upon finding men, women, and families sleeping under London's bridges, Captain Chris calls LIFNAV "William Booth's vision revitalized for the 21st Century.”

"We are touching people no one else wants to touch,” Captain Doborwicz said. “Housing is the first priority — then other issues are addressed."

He also uses his favorite expression, "God-wink," pointing out that for the two counties under his corps command, LIFNAV was heaven-sent especially at the height of the COVID pandemic.

At present, six caseworkers work out of the Leesburg office, but that number could easily double with an increase of available funds.

The Army in Lake and Sumter counties enjoys tremendous support for LIFNAV. In addition to mobilizing Leesburg's Salvationists, members of the Advisory Board have bought into the program, as well as civic and community groups—such as the Sheriff's Department, city councils, and other non-profits—are "sold" on the venture; anxious to join in the process.

A byproduct of LIFNAV is the benefit realized by landlords and housing complexes—sometimes overlooked by the severe economic downturn brought on by the pandemic.

LIFNAV is The Salvation Army's process of using behavioral insights to reduce process barriers while strengthening paths to housing. Individuals receive life-coaching and basic resources to navigate towards a new life.

"The stories we share bring us life, love hope, and a shared culture," states Major Frizzell. "LIFNAV, life-navigation coaching, is our invitation to others so that we may join their story, their hope, their life."

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