Sweet Relief

Alicia, a full-time candy store employee and mother of four, had her hours cut drastically when COVID-19 struck the U.S., causing her to fall $2,000 behind on her rent. With no other options left, Alicia turned to The Salvation Army. Alicia received $1,000 to help with rent, and she was able to pay the other $1,000. The Salvation Army also helped her with food assistance to further ease the financial burden.

“This helped me out a lot,” Alicia said. “Without The Salvation Army, I don’t think we would be able to continue to stay in this house that we’re in now. Anyone looking for help – The Salvation Army is your best bet. They work with you, and when they say they’re willing to help you, they follow up, step by step.”

Alicia is now back to work full-time and is continuing to work with The Salvation Army to earn her GED and high school diploma.

break the cycle of povertyAfter a challenging and tumultuous period in her life, Crystal checked in to The Salvation Army’s family shelter at the Community of Hope in Lakeland, Florida. Upon arrival, her central goal was to build a stable home for herself and three children, especially after a recent eviction.

Just a few weeks into Crystal’s maximum 90-day stay in the family shelter, she enrolled in the Pathway of Hope program and quickly secured a job at a local restaurant. From there, Crystal opened a bank account to embark on her plan to save money in order to transition out of the shelter and into stable, secure housing.

“We could tell right away that Crystal was ready for change, and that is really what Pathway of Hope is all about,” said Cristina Coulson, Social Services Program Coordinator. “She was really ready to break the cycle of poverty that she had been experiencing for years, and to do it for her children. The program was a great fit for her, and everything worked well, in part because she was so on board with being held accountable.”

With visible and clear motivation to improve her circumstances, Crystal continued to progress. Eventually, she signed a lease on a house, with The Salvation Army providing some financial assistance and Crystal contributing in a significant manner from money saved through her new employment. Ultimately, Crystal’s housing situation is now secure, with her dwelling fully furnished and comfortable for herself and her school-aged children.

Crystal remains active in the Pathway of Hope initiative, including weekly case management meetings with Coulson to help her navigate the coming days and months. Crystal also plans to continue her education by pursuing her GED, and she aims to secure a driver’s license. Her journey continues with an eye toward a better future, and her story stands as an illustration of what hard work and persistence can bring.

“Pathway of Hope works because it is a partnership between the case manager and the client,” Coulson said. “We purposefully work at the client’s pace, meeting them where they are. I think Crystal’s story is really a perfect reminder that, through Pathway of Hope, we can really break the cycle of poverty for people that have faced hardships for large portions of their life. I think she’s a shining example of someone who really wanted to put in the work, and we were able to come alongside her in the journey.”

Find out more about The Salvation Army’s Pathway of Hope Initiative.

By: Brad Rowland

I am one of four children. My mother is a recovering alcoholic and my father struggles with a heroin addiction. I know they both love me. However, their problems created what I can only describe as a destructive lifestyle. As a result, our family has been spiritually and emotionally devastated.

From as early as I can remember, we were evicted from apartment after apartment. At age 15, I started working to help pay the rent and other bills so our home could have some semblance of stability and security. Eventually, we moved into a house.

That house was the first time we were able to plant some roots, so all things considered, it was a happy time in my life. I had school friends and even a crush on Carly, a girl who lived a couple of houses down the road.

Evicted again

But just like always, that stability and happy time was short-lived. My father started to secretly keep our rent money to support his addiction; the same destructive cycle raised its ugly head again.

In time, all our utilities were cut off and we received yet another eviction notice. Having no money and nowhere else to go, my father broke into the basement of the house so we could have a place to sleep.

As we slept one night, we heard a knock on the door. It was a police officer. He immediately escorted us out of the house; he forced us to leave behind everything that we owned. I left little of real financial value, but a lot of sentimental items from my childhood. Later, I found them in a dumpster—broken and destroyed.

When I reflect on that night we were evicted, I remember something else the officer did. He paid for a hotel room and a pizza so we could eat and stay together. In the midst of the most demoralizing night of my life, his amazing act of selflessness would later impress me greatly.

At the time the officer evicted us, I viewed him as someone who was destroying our lives. But when I became a man, I began to see his selfless act of compassion as something that dramatically redirected the course of my life.

I am forever grateful for the kindness that officer showed my family. I can only assume that he was also the person who gave my dad contact information for The Salvation Army Family Caring Center because that’s where we found ourselves the next day.

Food to eat, a place to sleep

To be completely honest, I hated the circumstances that found us living in a homeless shelter. Back then, it was easy for me to feel ashamed and victimized. Now as an adult, I see what my child’s eyes missed; thanks to The Salvation Army, I had food to eat. We ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Much to my surprise, the food tasted good and the meals were hot. I had a sense of security knowing that the constant threat of eviction was behind us. Rather than dread people knocking on the door, I looked forward to it.

Someone else held my father accountable for his behavior, which lifted a huge burden off my young shoulders. I was able to see the benefit of a structured schedule. Our lifestyle shifted completely from the chaos that I knew.

Something else that seemed small at the time but impacted me later were all the trips The Salvation Army provided. I went to baseball games, museums, and parks. These outings allowed me to be a child; something I so desperately needed.

For sure, the biggest blessings The Salvation Army gave my family were renewed relationships with each other. Without the Family Caring Center, we would have surely been put into foster care. I can only imagine the inevitable cycle and rift of separation that would have taken place among us all. But because of The Salvation Army, my father received helpful resources for housing. This helped us remain the strong siblings we are today.

Sharing our story

At present, my wife and I have recently started sponsoring monthly birthday parties for the children at the Family Caring Center. Throughout the past three months, we’ve had the privilege of getting to know and seeing firsthand what an amazing job Envoy John Barnett, his wife Envoy Nancy Barnett, and all the staff are doing at the center. The amount of compassion and heart they have for each family who enters the building is truly remarkable.

We continue to share with parents and children our personal testimonies of how God transformed our lives. In life, everyone is faced with mountains, giants, and storms. Actual trials and circumstances will look different, but the One who brings us victory over them remains the same.

I stand here today because of the grace of God and my faith in Jesus. God used what I once saw as the most devastating and terrible times in my life, to save, strengthen, and bless me more than I could have imagined.

My story is just a tiny paragraph in a giant book full of testimonies that tell how God uses The Salvation Army to shine a light on people who are living in spiritual darkness. I give all glory and honor to God. It is only by His grace that my eyes were opened.

Unconditional love

I also thank Carly, the girl who lived down the road from me when I was 15. Although we lost touch with one another when I went into the shelter, we later reconnected in our 20s. Today, I am honored to call her my wife. She has stood by my side through the worst storms and when circumstances seem impossible. Her love is truly unconditional.

Then there are my children, Elijah and Isaac. Because of them, I am reminded daily to be a better man. I know they are looking to me to lead them.

And finally, I thank The Salvation Army Family Caring Center for giving my childhood family the help, resources, and opportunity to stay together during hard times.

by Josh Linder

Original Article

Tiffany is a hard-working, independent mother who has been providing for herself and her family since her ex-husband left her and their two children while she was 4 months pregnant with their third child.

“I found myself alone with no friends and family to help,” says Tiffany. “I was behind on my rent and facing food insecurity.” That’s when she found The Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army helped Tiffany with financial support in order to keep a roof over her family’s heads, utility support, food from our pantry, and other wrap-around services.

“As a single mother, my biggest concern was providing stability for my family, and The Salvation Army is the biggest part of my support system, hands down.”

Nowadays, The Salvation Army is working with Tiffany’s family through our Pathway of Hope program, which provides individualized services to families with children who desire to take action to break the cycle of poverty.

“I get really emotional when I think about it because The Salvation Army has helped me so much,” she says. “So if you are reading this I want to thank you. Because of your donation I was able to keep a roof over my family’s head and food in our house.”

Tneesha

TneeshaTneeshia enrolled in The Salvation Army’s Pathway of Hope program just before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Her goal was to find housing for herself and her two-year-old son and start her path toward earning her GED.

“By early March, me and my son had moved into an apartment, and I was taking in-person GED classes,” said Tneeshia.

Unfortunately, Tneeshia’s efforts to obtain her high school diploma were jeopardized when a government stay-at-home order forced her to stay in her apartment without daycare. This put her in the difficult position of juggling online schooling and caring for her toddler.

A local Salvation Army employee called Tneeshia regularly and delivered food to her home along with household items such as a bathroom set and dishes, encouraging her not to give up.

A few weeks ago, Tneeshia earned enough credits to obtain her high school diploma. Her next goals are to find a job and daycare and to obtain a driver’s license.

Gary

not just another statistic

The COVID-19 crisis has hit vulnerable individuals especially hard. This includes people like Gary, who is homeless and relies heavily on The Salvation Army not only for shelter but for food and emotional and spiritual care as well.

Gary has been to multiple shelters during his 17 years of struggling with homelessness, but he says that The Salvation Army holds a special place in his heart.

“When I first became homeless, I was just another statistic,” Gary explained. “This Salvation Army gave me clothing and food, and I would praise The Salvation Army 100 percent.”

 

pathway of hope angel story

pathway of hope angel story

“I fell asleep at police departments sometimes just to know my children were safe.”

These are the words of Angel, a mother of two daughters who was living in her car with her girls after becoming homeless during the COVID-19 crisis. The family was referred to The Salvation Army’s Pathway of Hope program to get back on track.

“It was a support system that was genuine. It wasn’t just for show. They really got down on the level I was on and felt what we were going through,” Angel explained.

“My caseworker didn’t judge. He told me, ‘Human to human, I see what you’re going through, but I believe in you.’ He saw me at my lowest and helped me climb back up.”

Angel and her girls are now living in the safety of their own apartment, and all three are thriving.

IMG_0793 landscape

IMG_0793 landscape

After spectators for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg were barred from attending the race due to COVID-19 precautions, food vendors were left with an abundance of items.

With prepped cook-on-demand food, vendors could not travel home with the supplies and thankfully sought local charities to bless.

The men, women, and children at The Salvation Army shelter in St. Petersburg, Florida received salmon, seasoned pork loin, seasoned chicken, bacon, olives, and fresh fruit to enjoy on their weekend menu.

The Salvation Army is grateful to all of the community partners and donors helping continue service to individuals and families in need.

Donations of non-perishable food items, sanitizing supplies, and paper goods are needed across all Salvation Army pantries. Click here to find your local office.

Click here to learn about The Salvation Army’s national response to coronavirus COVID-19.

If you would like to submit a prayer request or a request for one of our pastors to call you for prayer, please visit www.SalvationArmyFlorida.org/pray.

Click here to help The Salvation Army continue meeting needs in your community.

 

orlando tent shelter covid19 1 landscape

In order to comply with CDC recommendations for social distancing, The Salvation Army Orlando Area Command has erected a 5,200 square foot tent with 50 sleeping cots to accommodate emergency shelter guests. This tent is for current male shelter occupants who would otherwise have nowhere to go because of the additional space needed in the current shelter to abide by updated safety guidelines.

“Through this effort, we are keeping people safe and continuing to provide our regular services to those who are experiencing homelessness during this time of crisis in our community,” says Captain Ken Chapman, Administrator for The Salvation Army’s services in the Orlando area.

The temporary shelter for men was provided by the City of Orlando along with electrically powered fans. For those unable to stay in the shelter or tent, The Salvation Army is providing referrals to other resources and partner agencies.

The Salvation Army in Orlando is also still providing food assistance and clothing vouchers, and has modified community meals to be served in to-go containers for pick-up.

Click here to learn about The Salvation Army’s national response to coronavirus COVID-19.

If you would like to submit a prayer request or a request for one of our pastors to call you for prayer, please visit www.SalvationArmyFlorida.org/pray.

Click here to help The Salvation Army continue meeting needs in your community.

The Salvation Army Pathway of Hope initiative serves families in need

The family was homeless: Brian was living in a car with the three boys while Hannah was staying elsewhere. There just wasn’t space for all of them to be together. Dealing with ongoing health issues, Brian was unable to work consistently, so Hannah had to be available to look after him and the children. They were without hope and couldn’t see a way out of their situation.

The Salvation Army received a referral for the family from a partner agency, both organizations have been involved with the family ever since.

“The Salvation Army was able to help right away,” Hannah said.

Christy, their Salvation Army case manager, developed a personalized action plan and meets with them regularly. “They were an ideal fit for Pathway of Hope, a nationwide Salvation Army initiative that assists families, ultimately helping them to be self-sufficient,” Christy said.

She helped Brian apply for disability benefits and continues to meet with the family twice each month. “Hannah is working as a bus driver for the school district, securing a steady income and health benefits for the first time. Once they receive disability payments, the family will reach a new level of financial security and be able to plan for the future,” says Christy.

Additionally, the partner ministry continues to provide financial support and a coach, who is like an emotional cheerleader, and also meets with the family regularly.

It’s been really helpful to have people to talk about what is going on in life. I’m not used to that kind of support network,” Hannah said. “I feel like there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel and I’m learning to deal with stress and pressure in a completely new way.

“We’re living paycheck to paycheck, but that’s OK. I’m hoping we will soon have a little money left in our account at the end of each month,” she said. “I want to eventually take the kids on vacation and do stuff other people do. For now, we’re paying the bills and have a roof over our heads.”

Hannah said she is grateful for The Salvation Army’s Pathway of Hope program. “They helped pick us up and kept us working toward our goals,” she said. “I want to say ‘thank you’ to The Salvation Army for being there for us.”

Find out more information The Salvation Army’s Pathway of Hope initiative HERE.

To help The Salvation Army continue to serve families in need in your community, GIVE TODAY.