The number of homeless women and children in Birmingham, AL was both startling and growing in the early 1980s. While several men’s emergency shelters existed in that period, no social service agency provided any support for homeless women during daylight hours. In 1985, a small group of professional women from the Cathedral Church of the Advent (St. Mary’s Guild) partnered with Greater Birmingham Ministries (GBM) to fill that critical gap, believing that “wrap-around” services were needed during daylight hours to assist homeless women in their return to a life of dignity and self-sufficiency. Over the past thirty years, St. Mary’s Center became an independent 501(c) 3 agency (renamed, Birmingham PATH) and later merged with another non-profit agency, Bread & Roses, to become Pathways, a United Way Agency. Thus, Pathways is the oldest, continuously operating agency in Birmingham, which is dedicated to serving homeless women and their children. The mission of Pathways is to end homelessness for women and children through hospitality, housing and hope.
Pathways continues to offer a range of transitional and long-term services for homeless women and children. Through its downtown Day Center, the agency provides food, clothing, showers, laundry facilities and case management. Pathways operates a transitional shelter at its downtown location for women without children as well as a rapid rehousing program for women with children. The agency’s Safe Haven program provides permanent, supportive housing for chronically homeless women with a mental illness. This program is the only one of its kind for women in Alabama.
Over the years, it has become obvious that families need more than shelter to escape homelessness. Pathways also provides a program called Invest in You which merges key elements of the former Employment Readiness and Fiscally Fit programs while meeting the needs of our ever-changing population.
With this continuum of services, Pathways provides housing and supportive services for 1,200-1,500 women and children annually.