Louisville Pathway of Hope Expands Community Footprint

May 24, 2016 | by Laura Poff

Louisville Pathway of Hope Expands Community Footprint

After the USA Southern Territory launched the Pathway of Hope national initiative in spring 2015 to help eradicate homelessness in families, the Louisville, Kentucky, Center of Hope was one of the first to put the plan into action.

Johanna Wint, Louisville Center of Hope director, said that while the center had a similar vision prior to Pathway of Hope, it wasn't as robust of a program. "It wasn't as extensive or holistic; I love Pathway of Hope: I think it's an incredible way to empower families – to be able to walk alongside our clients and give them the help and support they need."

The Louisville POH has a part-time caseworker dedicated just to Pathway clients and one fulltime case manager who splits her time between Pathway and other programs. Right now, Louisville has 10 active POH clients. All of them have varying backgrounds, but the initiative helps each family assess its needs, set goals and put an action plan into place for where they envision their family long-term.

Funding and referrals come from a variety of sources – United Way, private foundations and even  Jefferson County's public school system. "We met with all the resource teachers in each school, and we use that as an opportunity to go in and meet families," said Wint. There are also two mental health agencies – one for children and one for adults – that refer families who might be a good fit for the POH initiative.

Wint admits one of the biggest challenges has been finding families who are ready for the commitment that Pathway requires. "Initially, we got lots of clients because they were behind on their rent or their utility bills; it's hard to turn people away because they're not ready for change. We're trying to move people further along and when they're still stuck in crisis mode, we can refer them to get immediate and emergent needs met. I always give out information about Pathway of Hope and tell them to come back when they're ready."

Another challenge involves clients' insecurities as they move through the process of goal-setting and begin to make real progress. They are often reluctant to give up dependence upon something such as food stamps and shy away because the thought of being independent elicits fear. "We've shown them this can be better, but some people get to that point when they're going to lose those benefits and they back up," said Wint. Another issue they've run into is a dual-partner family where one parent wants to move forward and the other is holding back. "If both parents are on track and want to move forward, then the sky's the limit. If whoever you're doing life with is not moving in that same direction, you're not going to be successful."

One way the staff has tried to overcome that challenge is in its initial interview phase. Wint said they're very purposeful about asking questions to help the client recognize if they will be supported or not. "We ask how involved they think the other spouse will be … and we ask that on the front end now. Hopefully, we can gain enough trust to win that person over at each hurdle."

Hurdles were there right from the start for Chantel Kissel. Her initial assessment was turned down for the Pathway initiative because she didn't seem motivated enough for change. But after more interviews, it was clear she was ready to move forward with her children – daughter Alek, 11; son Nick, 8; and daughter Lilak, 2. Another obstacle was that she was a single mother while her husband went through a Salvation Army adult rehabilitation center, and she and the kids were living in a family friend's basement.

"Chantel is working full-time on the weekends as a certified nursing assistant," said Kim Robinson, full-time case manager for the center. "Her goals were to find a second job, get a vehicle and eventually be in a position to buy a house."

Robinson helped her break those goals into smaller steps, through which Kissel is proceeding. She has obtained a part-time job and her husband is back at home after completing the ARC program, and she has purchased a vehicle. Robinson said the Kissel family has been in the program for just under a year and could stay up to two years, depending on how quickly they achieve all their goals. The Salvation Army is helping Kissel look at ways to increase her credit by paying off medical bills so that they are in a better position to buy a home.

Wint said the Pathway of Hope initiative has opened doors in the community for the Center of Hope. Primarily known in Louisville as either Angel Tree or a homeless shelter, The Salvation Army Center of Hope is now making inroads at local schools and through the corps character development and after-school programs in which its POH clients are taking part. "We can go to the summer camps and get to know the kids and parents that way, and it's broadening our horizons in Louisville; it helps us to reach out to all of Louisville and Jefferson County."

One of the Louisville POH goals is to strengthen its community partnerships. A new one that Wint is excited about is with Louisville's Jewish Community and Family Services. They do micro-lending and workforce development, which according to Wint, will help POH clients not just think about getting a job but really evaluating what kind of career they hope to have. "I'm excited about the change in people's lives, when they make what for us may be a small step but for them is huge. To hear a client say, ‘For the first time in my life I've completed something,' or ‘I have someone who believes in me,' really excites me."

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