The Salvation Army in Boise, Idaho, recently launched the Pathway of Hope program.
Katie Johnson* had been unhoused in Boise, Idaho, for two years, with her longtime boyfriend—then he was arrested.
“I became a single mother experiencing homelessness in the blink of an eye,” she said.
Her life began to change when she connected with the local Salvation Army and its Pathway of Hope program. Just before Thanksgiving 2022, Johnson moved with her two children from a homeless shelter into her own apartment.
The Boise program is an expression of The Salvation Army’s national Pathway of Hope initiative, which aims to provide individualized services to families with children, with a goal that the families maintain long-term stability.
The 12–18-month program launched just over a year ago when Boise Corps Officers Majors Kimberly and Thomas Stambaugh decided to merge their former program, Pathways Out of Poverty, into the Pathway of Hope model. The transition involved meeting Pathway of Hope’s assessment and data entry requirements on WellSky, a software program that allows coordination between social service and healthcare providers.
In December 2021, the Stambaughs hired Case Manager Kira Hurt to manage the transition of the programs, and the metamorphosis began. Hurt works with individuals including Johnson, helping them navigate the steps along the path.
“For some clients, the change is like 180 degrees—from living in a car to living in an apartment,” Hurt said.
Previously, Hurt had been employed with The Salvation Army Nampa (Idaho) Community Family Shelter, working with unhoused and mentally ill individuals. Before that, she taught high school for 21 years.
She said she did a lot of community outreach for several months to introduce the program’s new name. She put up posters and distributed brochures to other social service providers.
“It’s intensive case management, once a week,” Hurt said. “And every week, we come up with new goals for the week, talk about whatever issues are going on, if they need resources. I help them with who to call and sometimes I have to make a referral. For some, I’m working on housing; the ones that take the most time are the unhoused ones.”
Currently, she’s working with 10 families, with three more on a waitlist. At each weekly assessment, clients set four goals for that week that support a long-term goal, perhaps to purchase a house in five years.
Clients receive gift cards, courtesy of Fred Meyer, for attending their weekly meetings and a class Hurt started—“Getting Ahead in a Just Gettin’ By World” (based on workbooks by Philip E. DeVol). The 13-week course focuses on breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty and building resources for a better life.
Program participants are required to attend the class in addition to their weekly assessment meetings. When it’s in session, the class meets once a week at the Boise Salvation Army campus.
The most recent session began Jan. 11, and Johnson signed up. She’s able to bring her kids as childcare is provided. A lot has changed for her in just a year.
From a car, to a shelter, to an apartment
“When I met Katie, she was living in her car with her boyfriend, and a week or two later, he had hit her and ended up in jail,” Hurt said. “And then she found out she was pregnant.”
Johnson already had a young son. She found herself in what the Getting Ahead class calls the “tyranny of the moment,” when a person is so stressed they are unable to think clearly; they are in survival mode.
Hurt said she first worked with Johnson to get her and her son into a shelter that was “packed.”
It was a start, though. Hurt said that at first, Johnson didn’t want to approach one of the agencies that deal with domestic violence that could offer her more resources.
“That was her decision,” Hurt said. “But she eventually decided to do it…and the agency helped her get into a shelter where they would have their own room.”
Meanwhile, Hurt made sure Johnson was on the list for subsidized housing. “We worked on that and she moved into her apartment; she’d had her baby—a girl—about four months ago.
“After years of being homeless, they moved in two days before Thanksgiving,” she said. And for Christmas, Johnson and her kids received gifts from a generous sponsor through the Adopt-A-Family program, arranged by Hurt.
Although the Boise program is small since Hurt is the only case manager, it’s had notable success. Since January 2022, she’s worked with 16 families and exited five to stable housing.
“I’m excited that Kira has expanded and made this program so impactful for our clients,” Thomas Stambaugh said.
She stays in touch with those who have finished the program, and recently completed three, three-month follow-up appointments.
“For the most part, they are all self-sufficient,” Hurt said. “They’ve changed their behaviors and thoughts. The class really helps, too…It’s just very rewarding to see people making such improvements in their life.”
Hurt hopes the program receives funding so it can add more case managers, and serve more families.
When the Boise program changed its name, it also shifted its emphasis, from poverty to hope.
“We believe by doing this, we have changed the face of this program,” Kimberly Stambaugh said. “[It] has a much more impactful name of providing ‘hope’ to those families who have found themselves in situations that made them feel hopeless.”
Along with starting the Getting Ahead class, Johnson is set to begin training for medical billing and coding, which will allow her to work from home.
“The Pathway of Hope program has been a great experience,” she said. “My case manager never judged the bumps or bruises I had…Today I have a home and hope for a future that keeps me going.”
*denotes name change
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