The Dalton, Georgia, Pathway of Hope initiative serves three counties, although families from just two counties are currently enrolled; the need is expansive. Major Art Fultz, corps officer in Dalton, explained the vision behind the Pathway of Hope initiative and why it’s such an innovative approach to solving the poverty issue.
“In many cases, our families relying on assistance are multiple generations. They didn’t get that way overnight,” he said. Pathway of Hope aspires to address poverty in families by looking at it from a long-term vantage point. So far, the Dalton Corps has nine families participating. “The number seems disappointingly low, but by nature of the program, the education and assistance is not a classic shelter environment. While we would like to see that statistic higher, for every family we see not re-entering society reliant on assistance, that’s a win for the community.”
When the Dalton Corps was identified as a pilot for the POH initiative, Major Fultz said it happened very providentially – they’d already been approached by one of their biggest funding partners, United Way, to make a modest grant for a focused, long-term approach to poverty-stricken families in the community. Barely a couple weeks later, the phone call came about Pathway of Hope. Dalton already had long-term housing for its transitional housing program – which is separate entirely from POH – and once POH got underway, the families who were in transitional housing (four on-campus duplexes and one separate house adjacent to the Dalton Corps property) were asked if they would be interested in discussing POH. That was last April – and four of the five families who were in transitional housing at the time entered as POH participants.
Major Fultz said the finances were daunting, although they did have a head start with partnerships such as United Way. But he also said the Southern Territory and the Dalton community were very supportive. “It goes without saying that it is a highly saleable and popular delivery of service to the community because they do see it as the ‘teaching to fish’ mindset. We won’t cease our short-term intervention, but the community sees it as a stop gap system for the revolving door that some of these families face,” he said.
Partnerships are a very significant aspect of Pathway of Hope, and the Dalton Corps has partnered with United Way, the Compassion House, AgriMissions, Dalton First United Methodist Church, a local taxi service and a local bank. POH participants will soon take advantage of the community garden that’s getting built by AgriMissions and youth from Dalton First UMC within some of the Dalton Corps’ green space; the local bank will stand alongside POH participants to help them with budgeting and finances; a local taxi service accepts The Salvation Army vouchers to help POH participants get to appointments and jobs on time; and a partnership with Georgia Northwestern Technical College will give any participants who need to take their GED a scholarship to cover testing fees.
While partnerships are critical, said Major Fultz, perhaps the biggest asset to the program is its dedicated caseworker, Jamie Turner. He knows what it’s like to struggle after suffering unemployment for two years when the housing industry bottomed out in 2008. With a background in education and juvenile services, Turner possesses a unique gift mix that made him an ideal caseworker for Pathway of Hope. “Jamie started only part-time and now funding has been re-allocated so he can work full-time,” said Major Fultz. He commended how much Turner has been able to do, despite being in the position for less than a year, most of which was on a part-time basis.
Turner said that discovering the extensive need was surprising at first. Many of the families who approach them for services got into their situation as a result of a job loss. He said one of the highlights of his job is helping clients like Tiffiny Moody. She was the first POH client and came to them having escaped an abusive relationship. She is a single mom of five kids, the youngest of which has some medical issues that make his care dependent on hospital visits and lots of testing. She came to POH having worked at several temp agencies from which Turner directed her away, saying those jobs are a temporary fix to a long-term problem.
He helped her with creating a resume, which built her confidence immensely.
“Her transformation was in moving from ‘get me through today’ to seeing the long-term: her career, her children, her education and it’s been delightful to see,” said Major Fultz.
“A highlight for me,” said Turner, “is seeing how she’s turned her life around. She makes really good decisions for her family.” Right now Moody lives in the off-campus single-family home that’s owned by the Dalton Corps, and she’s steadily progressing toward her goal of full-time employment. Moody works part-time while juggling childcare and her son’s testing. She said her interactions with Jamie Turner and Pat Thompson – the business director in Dalton who has also undergone POH training – has helped her realize there are people in her corner.
“They reassure you that just because you’re down right now, it’s not always going to be like that. You can make it. Pat and Jamie have helped me so much. Both of them are just great at what they do,” she said.