by Nan Pahl
The Salvation Army of Greater Green Bay, Wis., was honored to be chosen in 2011 as one of three pilot sites for Pathway of Hope (POH). It was a tremendous experience, and the staff enjoyed working with this new strengths-based approach to case management with families. The social services department continued to work with POH to identify families who could benefit from it, meeting enrollment goals several times and seeing several families complete the initiative.
In early 2019 we began to explore with divisional headquarters the expansion of POH with our housing program. We already worked on long-term case management with our transitional housing families, so including POH seemed logical. Another significant factor was the transitional housing program’s collaboration for more than 30 years with the Ecumenical Partnership for Housing (EPH), a network of more than 20 churches which provides and maintain the housing units. So, POH’s spiritual component seemed a perfect fit.
We hired a new transitional housing team in fall 2019 to lead this initiative. They worked with Lt. Jessica Turner, Green Bay corps officer, to identify ways for the spiritual component to be incorporated in the work with families. Lt. Jessica is the first point of contact for families who want pastoral care. If they don’t already have a church home and they are interested, she offers to connect them with the corps or one of the EPH churches.
“The families are open for me to pray with them and offer support,” said the lieutenant. “It’s encouraging to me that people are open to hearing the gospel and letting me be part of their lives.”
By December 2019, the transitional housing team was enrolling its first families into the new and improved POH housing program. Utilizing the URICA (the University of Rhode Island Change Assessment Scale), the Herth Hope Index assessment and the Self-Sufficiency Matrix, in addition to regular intake materials, helped the team identify the families best suited for this new approach and the opportunity to reside in our transitional housing units.
In its first year, the team enrolled 25 families in POH. Several families have completed the initiative and moved into long-term safe and stable housing in the community. This progress happens based on the families setting goals with case managers and their hard work in the areas of employment, education, budgeting and financial counseling, parenting, personal counseling and spiritual care. Key to promoting success are the Army’s long-standing community partnerships with University of Wisconsin-Madison for nutrition classes which are individualized and conducted in homes, Catholic Charities for budget and financial counseling and debt management programming, and with EPH for the provision of housing at no cost to the families while they are working hard in the initiative.
The pandemic has not dampened the spirits of our staff or families. Families adjusted to working from home and to teaching their children in virtual schooling. Several families exited POH positively during the first several months of the pandemic. Staff and Lt. Jessica worked to support families during this challenging time by providing services and making 245 spiritual/emotional care contacts virtually or by phone. They also got creative by delivering Easter baskets, summer fun care kits, learning sheets and food pantry via porch visits even while Wisconsin had a safer at home order, and Christmas cards and activities during the holiday season.
We were excited to be a POH pilot and now are equally excited about fully incorporating this approach into our housing program, knowing it will help families make significant, lasting change.
Editor’s note: The Salvation Army in Greater Green Bay, Wis., was recognized in 2020 with the Achievement Award for excellence in Pathway of Hope.