Eastern Michigan Division

In response to a challenge to "double our impact" regarding emergency social service assistance, a survey identified that 90 percent of corps are "serving" problems and are not in a position to "solve" root causes. How can we invest intentionally to change our impact when a family comes for a bag of food? Targeting families with children to impact generational poverty, and using some consistent tools for assessment, the desire was to identify how to add this dimension when two-thirds of corps are working with one or fewer staff doing a multitude of jobs.

The Pathway of Hope approach is built upon consistent process and training innovations, case management best practices, and the use of technology systems available within the territory. Objectives include developing a new approach that has the potential to enable motivated individuals seeking help with basic needs to move beyond survival (crisis and vulnerability) to increased stability and sufficiency, building hope at each step.

Initial reports from casework staff implementing the Pathway approach are encouraging.

“The Pathway of Hope program has given our staff the opportunity to make deep connections with people,” said Nan Pahl, social services director for Green Bay, Wis.

Nan reported that many clients have indicated it’s the first time they’ve had the opportunity to sit down with someone who really listens to them and helps them identify their individual and family resources versus their deficits.

According to Nan, completing the strengths assessment propels clients forward as they begin to identify steps they can take to build stability for their families, economically and socially.

“We’ve aligned our programs, advisory board functions and approach to outreach. Our mission is clearer and more focused on helping to change lives one family at a time,” said Captain Brenda McCoy, Gary-Merrillville corps officer. “I’ve been enriched as I’ve had the opportunity to engage with clients who appreciated the time we’re taking to listen to their needs and partner with them.”

“The Pathway of Hope project has been an opportunity to sit down one-on-one with clients, discover where they are, where they would like to go, and how to move forward. It is working with clients to chart a path forward to increased stability, assisting them in discovering options available and becoming their personal cheerleader. I have felt for a long time that clients’ lack of self-esteem due to family circumstances, lack of education, abuse or whatever, is often what holds them back. This program offers the chance to look the client in the eye and say ‘You are worth the effort it will take to move beyond where you are, and I believe in you.’”

There are still many challenges ahead in taking what has been learned during the demonstration phase into full implementation. The goal is to initiate the Pathway of Hope in 30 additional corps this year. The demonstration corps have not only supported good initial steps forward for their clients but are contributing to how we can enhance our capacity to serve with current resources.