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Pathways to Replace Shelter Program with Rapid Re-Housing

Pathways, Inc., a nonprofit agency that assists homeless women and children, has been awarded a $325,000 grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to implement Jefferson County’s only rapid re-housing program.

Pathways' New Beginnings program will provide rapid re-housing and supportive services for up to 16 families at a time. Rapid re-housing places priority on moving a family experiencing homelessness into permanent housing as quickly as possible, ideally within 30 days of them becoming homeless and entering a program. Then, once housing is established, social workers provide the wrap-around services each family needs in order to succeed, such as case management, connection to mainstream resources, and referrals.

“These are exciting times,” said Maria Lampley, Executive Director of Pathways. “Pathways has the opportunity to more dynamically end homelessness for the women and children we serve. Rapid re-housing, which places emphasis on first getting a family into stable housing and then providing direct, personalized services to them, has shown to be a highly effective method of decreasing homelessness.”

Over the next several months, Pathways will be working with HUD to establish the New Beginnings program, in which women and children experiencing homelessness are placed in their own house or apartment. In the meantime, Pathways will be moving families currently residing at their Southside family shelter into other placements. At the Southside shelter, several families sleep in a single room and live in a communal setting for up to six months before moving into their own house or apartment.

The decision to move to a rapid-rehousing model comes after the agency spent several years strategically planning and reviewing various housing trends. In order to focus on moving and keeping families in stable housing, Pathways will end its Southside family shelter program in February.

“Our team is committed to ensuring that the families we serve have access to all of the resources they need in order to have the life they want,” Lampley said. “We have found that communal living is not always the most effective path toward self-sufficiency for our clientele. Other organizations have successfully implemented rapid re-housing in their communities, so we are encouraged that the same can happen here in Birmingham.”

Pathways will also be focusing more of its efforts on the Day Center, which is the agency’s core program. Pathways’ Day Center is the only place in Birmingham where homeless women and children can go during the day to get a full array of services, from food, clothing and showers to classes and case management. Pathways envisions its Day Center expanding to include even more services to women and children, ultimately shortening the amount of time they are homeless.

“Many of us take so much for granted, like having a place to shower, wash our laundry and enjoy a meal,” Lampley said. “Pathways provides all of these things and more on a daily basis to individuals experiencing homelessness. Now, we want to do more to make a long-lasting impact on the lives of the women who come through our doors each day.”