A Commitment to Care


Pathway-jumpThis is the second in a series of articles featuring the USA Southern Territory’s implementation of the national social services initiative, Pathway of Hope.

By partnering with its Boys and Girls Club, the Durham, North Carolina, Corps easily identifies families who qualify for the Pathway of Hope initiative. The POH initiative – a national social services initiative that helps families overcome intergenerational poverty – was rolled out in the USA South in spring 2015.

Durham began its foray into the rollout in June with Sherri Bluett. She’s a single mom with two kids, who were already members of the Boys and Girls Club, and that’s how she discovered Pathway of Hope.

“We use our Boys and Girls Club to collaborate with social services,” said Captain Robert Viera, corps officer with wife Captain Glenis Viera. “Some of the families came because our staff members – through tutoring and our after-school program – have identified who may be eligible.”

Once the Bluett family was referred to the POH caseworker and initial interviews were complete, Sherry Bluett met all the requirements and began her journey. “She was struggling with her mortgage, which she was left with after her marriage dissolved and she was working part-time. Since she’s been part of the program, she’s been able to transition from part-time to full-time employment,” said Captain Viera.

A tenet of the POH initiative is its ability to garner collaborations in the local community. Most communities want to alleviate – not just manage – poverty. An example is the Durham Corps’ collaboration with Habitat for Humanity. Now, Bluett’s family is on the list to have a home built by HFH.

Captain Viera commended Bluett for being a “standout participant” who attends all meetings and even helps represent The Salvation Army at board meetings and various events. “She’s done some video clips and has been a key person to advertise the program,” he said.

Bluett isn’t the only one who has thrived. Her daughter, Neesha, who is 9, was struggling at school, depressed and having a difficult time after her mom and dad’s divorce. Now, she’s making excellent grades in school and is in a positive mentoring program; she has college aspirations and hope for her future.

Another partnership that’s helping the Durham Pathway of Hope initiative is its relationship with United Way. United Way has a program in the local schools, and in one particular school it identified four families who are good POH candidates. “So our Pathway of Hope caseworker is setting up initial interviews that have been brought through an outside organization,” said Captain Viera. “We have collaborations with everybody; with our regular social services, there are a lot of things we can’t do or we’re out of funding for, so we’ve always been in the habit of referring to other agencies and organizations. That all carries over to Pathway of Hope. Whether they are organizations or church groups, collaborations aren’t limited.”

Captain Viera said the POH initiative has been so transformative that the Durham Corps has altered its social services guidelines to reflect it. “If a family comes in to seek financial assistance, (the new guideline says) you can do that up to two years and that’s it – because in the past we’ve had families coming to us for eight or nine years. We feel that it’s more impactful to focus on a smaller group that is committed to making a change. It’s more effective for them, but also a better stewardship of the money and donations we receive. Our donors are going to be very pleased as they see the families climb the ladder of this program – those successes are a lot more valuable than one-time annual routine assistance.”

Another key to the initiative’s success, he said, is its customization. Each family is different, has a variety of needs and comes from a unique situation. So the case management identifies all the factors through the management tools, assessments and regular communication to meet each family’s set of needs.

One of the clients had a spouse pass away suddenly who had taken care of everything – from finances and bills to legal proceedings and meetings. So the client’s caseworker is attending meetings with the family’s head-of-household since it’s a new, uncharted role.

The message that this kind of attention sends is that The Salvation Army is committed to each family.

“We’re going to come alongside of you, even if it’s just to support you and be by your side as you make this transition,” said Captain Viera.

Ash Wednesday Blessings

Many corps across the territory held services for Ash Wednesday last night. Lieutenant’s Charles and Teri Smith in El Dorado, Arkansas had a special opportunity happen before their service even began!

A most interesting Ash Wednesday dinner happened to us tonight. As Charles was waiting for us to meet him at the restaurant, he had the chance to speak to the waitress. She was devastated that she had forgotten that it was Ash Wednesday. Charles told her that he would feel it a privilege to impose Ashes and pray with her. She quickly agreed and asked if she could ask any of her coworkers if they would like the same. So, right there in one of the closed sections of the restaurant, Charles was able to offer the imposition of ashes and pray with 2 people. Later on as we were ready to leave, the waitress came back and told Charles that there was a family who had just moved in to town that would like to know if they could also partake of Ash Wednesday. What a double blessing for Charles to be able to perform this ministry. The pictures are of our waitress and the family. The other woman was hard at work in the back and didn’t have the opportunity to come up again. What a neat night!

-Lieutenant Teri Smith

What a great story and example of being the church outside of the four walls of our corps buildings. Be encouraged today, never be afraid to respond to the spirit when He prompts you to share His love.

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Program Inspiration: Valentine’s Bake & Craft Sale

The Alexandria, Virginia Home League began preparations on February 4th for their Valentine’s Day Bake Sale.  The ladies are raising funds for the Mexico Children’s Home that they support each year and are using their baking skills and creativity this Valentine’s Day to do so.   Along with a wide variety of seasonal baked goods, they have prepared Twinkie cakes dressed as the wildly popular yellow Minions from the movie, “Despicable Me”.  The label on the cakes read “You’re One in a MINION”.  Other items sure to be best sellers are the Star Wars themed Tic Tacs, with labels such as “You R2 Cute”, “Yoda One For Me”, “Ewok My World”, and “Come to the Heart Side”.  In addition to sweets, the ladies have prepared Flower Bouquets using vintage Salvation Army songbook pages.  They have taken pages of the most beloved songs and created beautiful keepsakes to display for years to come!  The sale will take place following our Holiness Meeting on Sunday, February 14th.  This is our first Valentine’s Bake Sale, but the ladies were so excited with their finished products, I’m sure it won’t be the last.

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Sarasota Officer Volunteers for Nonprofit Leadership Training at Local College

When the Sarasota, Florida, Center of Hope was developing its policies on homeless care last year, Major Ethan Frizzell, area commander, enlisted the help of local college students. Through a volunteer position he has taken at New College, Major Frizzell was able to incorporate the development of homeless care policy into the course curriculum for the Nonprofit Leadership course he teaches.

“Last year one of the classes worked on a project with us. It was called the Community Leadership dialogues; it’s very similar to community engagement and community policy making – like what you do in international communities,” said Major Frizzell.

He began the volunteer teaching position in August 2015 and sees it as a means of giving back to the community that has so generously been involved with the Center of Hope. “This is my way of giving back to our community for very active young people,” he said.

In his course syllabus, Major Frizzell said the course would “explore how leadership can instigate greater social effect by using the resources of traditional social services and extending the strengths through nonprofit leadership. The course will examine the difference between adaptive leadership and technical management within nonprofits.”

During the first half of the course, students talk about tools and frameworks, everything from risk assessments to how to develop a portfolio, and the second half of the course, each student chooses a local nonprofit to review in fieldwork.

Major Frizzell said that some of the nonprofits they reviewed were organizations that The Salvation Army has known about and even partnered with in the past; others, however, were unknown to him, and he said that learning with the students has developed a higher level of collaboration in the community. While he’s the first to say that his responsibilities in officership come first, the experience of volunteering his time to teach community college students has helped him hone his communication skills.

“I walk the staff through these processes anyway, but it’s very helpful to get the feedback in the coursework of the students. How are they hearing what I’m teaching? That’s very relevant when you have a staff that’s growing as quickly as ours,” said Major Frizzell.

Using an adaptive leadership approach, students are looking at a host of concepts such as mission, vision, theory of change and using tools to observe and interpret what they see in a particular cultural context. “In order to create change within the culture, which is most significant, how do you listen? So we’re teaching them how to listen very actively and when you do that, then you interpret what you’re hearing very actively.”

He said the coursework has also been a good testimony; it’s helped him see how the community appreciates what The Salvation Army stands for and does.

Daytona Program Eradicates Veteran Homelessness

Volusia and Flagler Counties in Daytona Beach, Florida announced last year that the homeless veteran population is officially at what the government terms “functional zero.”

According to social services director Anthony Deobil, the terms are defined as no more than four homeless vets in Flagler County at any given time and no more than 24 in Volusia County. The Supportive Services for Veteran Families program has allowed Daytona Beach to declare an end to homelessness among vets.

Federal funding started three years ago to fund an aggressive push to end homelessness among veterans nationwide by 2015. While the national goal wasn’t met, Deobil said The Salvation Army in Daytona Beach has been able to hold to it.

Through the Housing First, Rapid Rehousing program, Deobil said the veterans they encounter who are homeless are placed in some type of temporary housing within 48 hours and permanent housing within 21 days. “Housing is step one. But then we have to make sure that they have the skills and abilities to survive on their own so it might mean helping them find a job, getting them to mental health or medical services, assisting them with getting on social security, disability or VA benefits.” Deobil said the federal grants they’re administering to conduct the program have been a game changer.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs gives the Daytona program a “surge” grant of $1 million per year for three years and the SSVF grant, $410,000 renewable annually.

“For the first time we got the money and talent we needed and with all those things together, we’ve been able to take these vets off the street and not just put them into an apartment – we are watching miracles every day,” he said.

Those miracles start with an encounter with the two-person outreach team. Deobil said the outreach team members were once homeless vets themselves, so they’re able to build a rapport of mutual understanding with the vets they meet on the street, at soup kitchens or in homeless camps. Once they check to make sure the person is indeed a veteran and that he or she meets the SSVF program’s eligibility requirements, the person is brought into either an emergency shelter, the Daytona Beach veteran’s transitional housing or, if there are no available beds, a hotel room for up to 30 days.

While there, they’re assessed to help identify any barriers to self-sufficiency. One of the six caseworkers devoted just to the SSVF program is a housing specialist who connects with local landlords. The Salvation Army pays for the rental until the veteran is self-supporting, usually within three months, although some have been in the program for as much as nine months.

They help the veterans connect with the VA for any disability or veteran’s benefits, medical or legal services, drug or alcohol rehabilitation programs if needed, and help them find skilled work according to the assessments they complete. One of their success stories had been the “local homeless vet” that everyone around town knew and never thought he’d escape the streets. He had an alcohol addiction and was homeless for 20 years. But he’s been in a rehabilitation program for nine months and, in addition to his VA benefits, he’s able to collect an income because he bought a lawnmower and started his own lawn care business in the neighborhood where The Salvation Army helped him settle.

One of the hallmarks of the program, according to Deobil, is how much they walk a veteran through even the most basic requirements of sustainability. Once a vet is placed in an apartment, the SSVF team meets him or her there with a host of cleaning supplies. Deobil said it’s not because the apartments need cleaning; they’ve been prepped already by the landlord. But they host a cleaning party so that they can help him re-learn how to clean if he needs to. And after being in the apartment for a month, staff members show up with cookie baking supplies and they make cookies together. During that time, the vet’s ability to cook and provide meals for his or her family is assessed.

The Daytona Beach Area Command can then help them get any training they need through the classes they offer – cooking, budgeting, cleaning, etc. To date, 830 households have been helped, which translates to about 1,500 people, including the veterans’ spouses and/or children. The stabilization rate is 97 percent, so Deobil feels that the impact is definitely long-term.

“Years ago in social services if we met a homeless person we used to say first we have to help them with their issues; then when they’re stable enough, we can put them into their own house. Now it’s different; we know if we take somebody off the street and put them into an apartment and we start speaking hope back into their life, they begin to change their attitude and all of a sudden they start wanting to change and they want help,” he said.

Some of the vets they help are asked to volunteer with the Battle Buddies program. It allows vets to give back to other vets escaping homelessness, and it lets the case management staff know that the vets they help are still self-sufficient and in stable housing.

One of Deobil’s favorite success stories is a veteran who was considered the problem vet. He was resistant to change, complained frequently about the caseworkers and didn’t want to do what was asked of him. About two weeks after he was placed, the vet came to see Deobil.

“Quite frankly, I thought he was going to complain about something. He held a key up and said, ‘Do you know what this is?’ I said, ‘Yes, it’s the key to the apartment,’ and he said, ‘No, it’s much more.’ He said, ‘If it rains tonight, my stuff’s not going to get wet, nobody’s going to steal my stuff because it’s locked in my apartment and if someone writes me a letter, it is going to come to me because my name is on the mailbox. This key means I’m somebody again.’ It’s a powerful story; this program is so life changing.”

Wake County NC’s Project FIGHT Receives Award

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The Salvation Army of Wake County, NC’s Project FIGHT (Freeing Individuals Gripped by Human Trafficking) co-hosted a press conference on January 11 with Partners Against Human Trafficking (PATH) NC to raise awareness about multiple initiatives that are being taken across the state to put an end to human trafficking. Representatives of several local human trafficking organizations and area churches were present for this special event.

Project FIGHT was presented with the Survivor Care award at a special event held by the North Carolina Human Trafficking Commission last year. The program, founded in 2011,  provides case management, outreach, awareness and education about Human Trafficking. Since its inception, it has helped more that 140 victims of trafficking and has trained 4500 people across the state.

“While the work is exhausting, it is a privilege to be a part of something much, much larger than ourselves,” said Christine Shaw, Director of Social Ministries for The Salvation Army of Wake County. “I am humbled by God’s provision and planning.  I am humbled by everyone’s perseverance to endure such difficult work.”

More information on Project FIGHT can be found here.