By Bobbie Curd

Maj. Carey Richmond says a new program is beginning at The Salvation Army that changes the whole process of how they offer social services. Pathway of Hope is an initiative to provide more individualized services to families with children, with the hope of breaking the cycle of poverty.

Maj. Richmond explains that currently, they assist individuals and families with emergency social services such as clothing, food, rent and utility assistance as funds are available. She says these services are meant to be a Band-Aid for a situation and, typically, there are restrictions on how many times a year someone can be assisted with a particular service.

“For instance, rent and utilities assistance can only be given once a year to a household. At this time, anyone can ask for an interview and we check to see if they are eligible based on need.”

However, Richmond says what they’re seeing is families returning. “So, instead of helping them once a year for 10 years, we want to walk them through it all for a year, and hopefully they’ll be out of poverty for good, with the services provided.”

Pathway of Hope, she says, will allow them to “walk” with a family through their time of need — typically six months to a year. The services will be individualized, with a case worker conducting interviews with families who apply, focusing on those with children in the household. People are eligible who have at least one child under 18.

The initiative will assist families with bills when needed, such as car repair or childcare, and offer clothing, food and Christmas assistance. Richmond says the parents must be willing to invest time into the program, attend weekly meetings with the case manager, undergo assessments and take classes to help educate them on making choices to hopefully break a generational cycle.

Pathway of Hope aims to provide strengths-based case management; a network of support; a sense of community; holistic programs; and spiritual guidance. The hope is to move families from crisis and vulnerability, into stability and — eventually — self sufficiency. They plan to track each family’s progress along the way.

Richmond says it’s a way to align the goals of clients to focus on hope as a measurable outcome.

The Salvation Army will offer job training, childcare and education, housing options, community referrals as well as health and legal services.

Richmond says it’s a more targeted way to provide services. Families will set their own goals, and the program will partner with them to provide the resources needed to accomplish them.

She says it’s an organized attempt to treat the symptoms of poverty, and hopefully will affect generations to come.

“Pathway of Hope changes how we offer financial assistance … but only those families in the program will receive that type of assistance. Services such as clothing vouchers, Angel Tree and food pantry will not be affected and anyone may still seek those,” she says.

As far as how the new program will change the inner-workings of the local branch, Richmond says they do foresee the need for an additional case worker as the program gets up and running. “It will be more time intensive for our case worker and we foresee that more funding will be needed as we add more families to the program.”

The Salvation Army has begun assessments as of January to find eligible families.

“Helping a family out of generational poverty means that we are preventing future generations from being stuck in the cycle. By educating parents and children on corrective steps and giving families support  — physically, emotionally, and spiritually — we are giving them the tools to succeed.” Richmond says hopefully, families will begin to share that new-found knowledge and success with their children, and so on.  

According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, about 15 million children in the U.S. live in families with incomes below the federal poverty threshold, which is 21 percent of all children. Also, NCCP says the federal poverty threshold is a measurement that has been shown to underestimate the needs of families; that research shows families need an income of about twice that level to cover only the basic expenses; and that by using this standard, 43 percent of children live in low-income families. Poverty, it says, has been shown through research to be the single greatest threat to children’s well-being.

“It’s multiplication at its finest. We know that when things at home are rough, this affects the child adversely in many ways. I believe wholeheartedly that as we begin to see families succeed in this program, the children are going to do better in school and in their peer groups. When we take away the stress of being in poverty, morale for these families will go up exponentially.”

The Salvation Army is located at 519 S. Fourth St. and may be reached by calling (859) 236-4474. For more about Pathway of Hope, visit usspathwayofhope.org.