Sarasota Pathway of Hope Builds Partnerships

As anyone well-versed in the broader nonprofit or social services conversation will attest, the more the community is behind you, the more you’re able to help the people who need it most. That’s what the Sarasota, Florida, Pathway of Hope is discovering as it joins hands to partner with others in the community as part of the Financial Sustainability Initiative.

Glenda Leonard, the development director at Sarasota Area Command, said the new initiative pairs The Salvation Army with the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, the United Way Suncoast and Iberia Bank. The initiative functions well with Pathway of Hope because its aim is to increase families’ financial literacy and encourage positive financial decisions. So POH clients are taking part and not only improving their financial decision-making processes, but they’re also offered incentives for those choices – matching funds for contributing to savings accounts and other incentives to encourage healthy financial decisions.

Leonard said the fact that Pathway of Hope is a national initiative gives the Sarasota Center of Hope much more footing on which to stand when it comes to community perception. “For several years we’ve been focusing on moving people from homeless to home – that is our number one priority. So this just confirms on a national level what we’re trying to do on a local level, and it gives us much more credibility in the community,” she said.

The Sarasota Center of Hope has taken great strides to integrate Pathway of Hope into its services, and that started with a transition from the previous Families In Transitional Housing (FAITH) program to Pathway of Hope. In fact, one of the center’s clients who has progressed the most is someone who started out in 2013 under the old program and is now in Pathway of Hope.

Nika Smith came to The Salvation Army, afraid and pregnant, in October 2013 with her two children. She was married at the time – to an abusive husband – and was very timid with low self-esteem. Having been homeless and hit rock bottom, Smith was ready to set new patterns for her children’s safety; she knew it was time to change. Smith took advantage of resources offered through The Salvation Army, first and foremost the legal services that enabled her to get a divorce. She progressed smoothly through the program by keeping in contact with her case manager and she started winning what were once insurmountable battles in her mind.

“Nika attacked every aspect of her former life to change her behaviors and mindset,” said case manager Amie Hobbie. “Her third child was born while she was a resident here, and during that time Nika enrolled herself and two other children with an agency that offers family and individual counseling for FAITH families.” She lived at the center for 11 months and was able to pay off her vehicle, enroll in a parenting program that gave her access to parenting classes and help for low-income mothers, pay off 65 percent of her credit report debt, obtain a secured credit card, open checking and savings accounts and file for – and now receive – child support for all three of her children.

When the FAITH program transitioned to Pathway of Hope, Nika enrolled. That was August 2015, and according to Hobbie, she is a different woman today. “This Nika is proud of her accomplishments . . . Nika is proof that with the right attitude and perseverance, homelessness doesn’t have to continue.”