“I wanted to kill myself. I didn’t want to live. Life was that bad. I hated my life, and I was adding two little people to this world.”
April Hickman, 37, was pregnant with her daughter Michilee and had a 1-year-old daughter, Marlee. She was trying to escape from a lifetime of family addiction and poverty. She’d taken to visiting various hospital ER waiting rooms, just so her daughter had a safe, warm place to sleep. She had zero options.
She eventually entered the Salvation Army’s emergency family homeless shelter and later its transitional program. A social worker then made a suggestion that transformed April’s life: enroll in the Salvation Army’s Pathway of Hope program.Today, three
Today, three years later, Hickman and her daughters have a home and are thriving, and Hickman has launched a business. She discovered she has an affinity for designing and sewing children’s clothing, and with the help of the Salvation Army, she recently launched Wonderfulee Marlee and has plans to grow her designs.
“I said, ‘OK, April, you’ve got to do better,’” she said. “It’s like God was saying, ‘This is your only opportunity. Anything past this point, you have no excuse.’”
Louisville is one of a handful of Salvation Army regions that offer Pathway of Hope. Started in 2014, the program provides individualized services to families trying to break the cycle of poverty and crisis. It’s not considered a Band-Aid, but a long-term commitment to address the root causes of poverty and build stability and self-sufficiency for the family.
“I wasn’t thinking about long-term anything,” said Hickman. “I needed to know where we were going to sleep tonight. No one had ever talked to me about setting goals before. I learned I couldn’t just sit here and wait for good things to come to me, but instead, I had to go out there and be proactive.”
“Families come to us overwhelmed with no direction,” said Johanna Wint, director of the Center for Hope at the Salvation Army. “Pathway of Hope is like a life coach. For the first six to nine months of the program, we stabilize the family by helping with immediate emergency needs, whether it’s rent, bills, social services – all things that allow them to breathe.”
Once the emergency period passes, the Pathway of Hope program works on financial empowerment, including counseling on budgets, housing readiness, job searches and daily life management like cooking, childcare and education assistance. Families work with counselors to map life goals – both immediate and long-term. The goals are broken down into workable tasks that the family progresses through over the course of up to two years.