Ministry Metamorphosis

In November 2020, Pathway’s Board of Directors approved its most ambitious undertaking so far, approving plans and launching a capital campaign that would eventually result in Pathway Village.

The Village concept consists of three incremental phases, each containing 12 cottages furnished for a single parent with up to 5 children. Phase One is now complete; the other two phases will come later.

The village is supported by a new common area structure known as the Hub Building, comprising a full commercial kitchen; a dining facility that serves as an activity room and learning center when not in use at mealtimes; the Family Ministry manager’s office, and a laundry facility for the Village residents.

Pathway Village crowns what could be loosely described as a “ministry metamorphosis”, borrowing a term from biology signifying a change of form or structure after hatching or birth.

One current staff member was on board to witness the birth of the Panola Ave campus. He remembers well the challenges in 2014 when the total capacity was eight men—no women and no children could be accommodated in the one small building that contained not only the men’s beds, but their dining area, kitchen, bathrooms, showers, and laundry room.

Pathway House was initially structured to meet the rudimentary needs of the most visible members of the local homeless population.

This was primarily because our resources were limited across the board. Money and staff were in short supply, as fund-raising efforts were just beginning; we had only modest name recognition, and no track record.

Our facilities were likewise limited, since we were sharing the recently purchased campus with the seller (Abney Memorial Baptist Church), who was delayed in finishing its new location and had not yet moved.

As ever, time marched forward, our Abney friends moved to their new location, and we began to confront the pressing need of more beds for the all-male population that we were limited to serving.

We resolved to create a large men’s dormitory by completely renovating the education wing of the existing church building. That task was finished in June of 2016, increasing our maximum capacity from 8 to over 30, while also providing some live-in staff quarters.

Next on the agenda came the urgent need of a facility for the homeless women and mothers with children that we were having to turn away or refer elsewhere. To our great relief, God inspired many hearts to support such a worthwhile effort, and a beautiful new facility for that purpose became a reality in March of 2017.

However, there remained a large vulnerable group we couldn’t reach.

Let’s explain this by example: one morning a young woman named Brenda called Pathway House; she was holding back tears as she explained a series of tragic events that had made her both homeless and jobless. For about two weeks her Toyota van had become a temporary home, when an old friend from high school came to the rescue, opening a spare room for her, her 6-year-old daughter, and her son, age 13.

Thankfully, school was out for the summer and Brenda began job hunting. Just when they were beginning to feel safe and hopeful again, the friend dropped a bombshell, informing Brenda that her boyfriend was moving in the following week— so she and the children would have to leave.

Although heartbreaking, we simply couldn’t help Brenda, because her 13-year-old son was too old to stay in our women’s facility and too young to be enrolled with our adult men.

This type of sad scenario presents itself often; but, prior to Pathway Village, we were prevented from enrolling families with a boy over 10 years old.

Blessedly, that problem was solved by expanding our facilities even further, as children of all ages can now reside with a parent in the Village cottages.

Over the past decade, Pathway has grown in accordance with the demonstrated needs of the community and countless lessons learned along the way—together of course with lots and lots of prayer.

Today, the physical growth since 2014 is easily identified by the increased acreage, numerous additional buildings, amenities, renovated spaces, and even a large thrift store.

But not all growth is so obvious.

In addition to “brick & mortar” growth, we’ve developed in some other important ways as well.

For example, we’ve refined our methods and approaches to lifting folks out of homelessness and ensuring, as best we can, that their independence sticks.

We’ve firmly rejected an easy approach that is always ineffective: the familiar one that gives handouts time after time— enabling people to have their comfort momentarily elevated while remaining homeless.

Obviously, this handout approach doesn’t provide help, at least not in terms of moving people forward into sustained independent living. Quite the opposite, it sidesteps legitimate help.

The type of help that we prefer to offer provides safety, stability, and support, while requiring the clients to actively participate in their own life transformation.

We also came to realize that clients who stayed with us for a prolonged period (6 to 12 months) were better able to maintain their independence after leaving.

Typically, they had established meaningful trusting relationships with our staff, with local churches, with our regular volunteers, and most importantly, with God. These strong relationships formed the solid foundation required to support a healthy, well rounded, and independent life.

It is apparent that our longer-term clients had far greater opportunity to nurture their faith in God and to establish and confront the root causes of their homelessness.

We discovered that these roots were most often traceable to complex trauma experienced in childhood or as younger adults.

Using a variety of resources, we diligently studied and researched the effects of trauma and its connection to homelessness—quite simply, the results demanded action.

Our Board voted in September of 2022 to officially transition from a conventional homeless shelter to a homeless ministry, with an emphasis on trauma-informed care and an extended term residential structure.

Pathway Village is a blessing that enhances our ability to reach so many additional people, and to offer them the careful discipleship and compassionate care that promotes positive change and a pathway out of homelessness— permanently.

By the grace of God, a bare-bones operation providing food and shelter to a handful of homeless men has blossomed into a fully staffed, well-appointed campus providing trauma-informed residential care to over 100 men, women, and children of all ages.

Pathway House