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Salvation Army of Louisville Launches Initiative to Help Struggling Families

A bad break-up about a year ago put Jewel Owens in a situation she'd never been before.

In a flash, she said a tense romantic relationship erupted. The police came and she had to quickly gather her children and her belongings and leave her Louisville home.

Owens, 37, said before that moment she had "been very self-sufficient" and never really needed help. But this time was different.

"I was just, like, a little bit lost," she said.

Owens is beginning to get back on her feet, though, thanks to a new Louisville program of which she's an early participant.

Officially launched Monday by the Salvation Army of Louisville, the Pathway of Hope initiative aims to "break the cycle of crisis for families with children," according to a press release.

The initiative will look to provide services necessary for stability and self-sufficiency—services like case management, spiritual guidance and educational coaching—for about 20 families during the next two years, said Art Penhale, Louisville area commander for the Salvation Army.

"Our goal is to address the specific needs of individuals who come to us," he said. "Not everybody who comes to us has the same type of need."

Salvation Army officials will be working with multi-generational families that have either been referred to officials by other service providers or who have specifically expressed interest in bettering their own situation, Penhale said.

About $200,000 has been allocated for the program, he said. Those funds will cover costs associated with a bolstered case management team and associated services, he said.

Residents interested in mentoring a family through the program are also welcome, Penhale said.

A huge aspect of the program will be helping people with the learning curve associated with getting out of poverty, he said. Volunteers are being sought to act as job coaches, educational mentors and "help come alongside these families," he said.

The people the program will target are living right on the brink of poverty, people living with relatives or living paycheck to paycheck, Penhale said.

In Louisville, about 18 percent of people live in poverty, according to U.S. Census data. That's about 110,000 people.

Owens currently lives with her aunt in Fern Valley and she said she is working as a server. Her income varies, she said. Some nights she can make as much as $200 a shift.

She is one of just two families to take part in the Pathways to Hope initiative thus far, said Johanna Wint, director of the Salvation Army’s Center of Hope.

"This program is cool because they kind of know where to lead you, but they're not holding your hand," Owens said. "At the same time, they try to keep you in check … you feel like you're getting support, but it's neutral."

Though the program offers support to families for up to two years, Owens said she is hoping she can get back on her feet much sooner than that.

"I definitely have a lot of goals," she said. Those goals include getting a place of her own and being able to take care of her children without any support from anyone else.

Before she had to leave her home she said she didn't know about all the programs available for people in unstable situations.

"It's nice to know that there is some type of support," she said.

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.

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