Pathways to Home
At the end of the 2008-2009 school year Seminole County estimated that over 1,000 children enrolled in the county’s public schools were homeless.
The majority of these children are elementary school students. These estimates are viewed as low since parents of elementary children are more open to seeking assistance when their children are younger and need more assistance. However, older children who need assistance are harder to identify because they tend to share personal issues with their peers rather than parents or teachers. As the children grow older, the perceived stigma of homelessness becomes more of a deterrent for parents when faced with the idea of asking for help. Additionally, since the Seminole County Public Schools statistics do not include children from birth to 4 years old, or those who attend private or faith-based schools, the real numbers only continue to grow. By the end of the 2009-2010 school year, Seminole County public schools had identified over 1,300 students as homeless. This represents an increase of over 100% in just two years.
Seminole County is fortunate to have many social service agencies and faith-based organizations addressing a wide spectrum of needs related to homeless families with children. In the past, these agencies often worked independently in their various areas of responsibility and expertise, operating under significant financial and human resource restrictions. In 2009, Seminole County government officials, faith-based organizations, and most of the leaders in the social service arena saw both the need and the opportunity to create a systematic and comprehensive collaborative approach to coordinating and integrating services to increase our community’s impact on this growing challenge of families in need.
Consequently, the initiative entitled Pathways to Home was created with the mission of increasing family stability and resiliency by guiding families to services that best meet their needs.
The Pathways to Home Program officially kicked off in January of 2010!
How Pathways to Home Works
Seminole County is fortunate in that many key social service agencies have come together under the Pathways to Home umbrella to provide coordinated services to families in need. The Pathways model gives power back to families who are willing to make a commitment to work toward their own advancement. We do not force families to change. Our involvement is respectful and positive and builds on each family’s strengths and experiences. Using the Family Team Conferencing model of case management, families set and commit to their own goals for success. Whatever route families take, our support team nurtures the family back to self-sufficiency.
Our approach recruits families who are willing to strive toward improvement. Our approach works closely with them to reduce frustration and uncertainty, while simultaneously increasing motivations, knowledge and skills. Each family has a case manager who will help them locate and wisely use appropriate resources related to housing, health and nutrition, education, family finances, career training and other essential life skills. The program is dedicated to assisting every committed family in contributing to and thriving in our community on a long term basis.
The families and their case managers meet regularly in Family Team Conferences to ensure that needed resources are identified and made accessible and that any problems are being addressed and resolved. Each aspect of the program and each family-case manager relationship is aided by a web-based data collection, resource allocation and communications network. This integrated management system allows information sharing, avoids duplication or gaps in services, reduces paperwork and ensures rapid service delivery. Equally important, this network is the basis for data collection that will provide qualitative and quantitative information on how well the program is being implemented.
US National Averages in 2010 indicate:
- 23% of our Nation’s Homeless Population consists of School Age Students
- There are over 770,000 homeless students enrolled in our Public Schools
- The average age of the adult in a homeless family is 30-32 years old.
- Over 75% of homeless families at some time share housing with a friend or relative, thus adding to the hardship on the family that is willing to help.