From Homeless to Helping
Once homeless, Pathways participants are now learning life skills that could lead to jobs unthinkable 5 years ago.
It’s just another spring day in Philadelphia, but something historic is happening at the Philadelphia Furniture Bank. A group of five Pathways participants are hard at work assembling, loading and delivering furniture for families in need. For many formerly homeless participants, this would have been unimaginable 5 years ago. Now they are learning skills that could lead to future success and financial independence. This is all part of a new program at Pathways called the Life Skills Group. According to founder Pathways employee, Wayne Ivey, the Life Skills group is a ten week pilot program that hopes to “provide meaningful community based outings which serve as real life classrooms for participants to move from the defensive, anti-social mindset of the streets” and to help others grow personally while serving others.
One participant in the Life Skills Group is Andre. After a fire left him homeless, Andre struggled with mental health issues, incarceration and everything else that comes with being a victim of a disaster. However, after Andre connected with Pathways, he began to turn his life around. Thanks to the efforts of you, our community, Andre was able to receive his own home and was able to get counseling for his mental health issues. Now, as a member of the Life Skills Group, Andre is learning new skills to lead him to future success.
Andre help formerly homeless participants register to vote!
One of the most important of these is money management. Each month, participants attend the Tacony Flea Market and buy clothing for job interviews, appliances for their homes, and even items for personal pleasure.
Andre has also helped to assemble furniture for needy families at the Philadelphia Furniture Bank, and helped close to 30 participants express their voice through the Voter Registration Drive. Andre says helping out in this way helps him “fill a void” in his life. He says the Life Skills Group helps him to build connections with others and gives him a positive outlet to help him solve his personal problems which he might have once solved through drinking or drugs.
The Life Skills Group helped repair, unload and deliver furniture at the Philadelphia Furniture Bank!
Some participants have started to use their experiences to expand outside of Life Skills Group and to begin working for other companies. One participant, Brian, is currently interviewing for a position as a Maintenance Technician at an apartment complex, and another participant, Alfonzo will begin volunteering to help a company with sheetrock and painting. To grow from being homeless to volunteering and making a difference in the community is a dream come true for many participants. Alfonzo says, "I love being able to give back like Pathways gave to me. It feels good to know that I'm helping, too!"
Alphonso volunteers to help paint!
For Wayne, founder of the Life Skills Group, this all part of the “change in attitude and the change in perspective” he’s seen in participants. He says he knows that they can continue to rebuild their lives by setting small goals, achieving them, and working hard to “turn the negatives in one’s life into positives."
According to Wayne, the idea for the Life Skills program arose out of his own struggles. Although he works at Pathways as a Certified Peer Specialist (CPS) now, Wayne can relate to many participants because he also struggled with issues of mental health, addiction and jail. While serving his sentence, Wayne met Darryl T. Lee Sr. of Victory Christian Outreach Church. There, Daryl served as a Life Skills mentor, teaching inmates self-actualization and life skills. Wayne says he took Daryl’s teachings to heart and that they led him on the path to becoming a CPS. Now, Wayne says he hopes that with this Life Skills Group, he can “engage and empower” participants in the same way that he was by Daryl Lee. He says that beyond giving participants a home and just having them “exist”, he wants to help them “reintegrate into society in a meaningful way” and to teach them the skills they need to live independently.
One of the key skill sets that Wayne tries to impart to Life Skills Group member is a set of coping skills. Being homeless comes with such large load of problems that even tiny incidents in one’s day can seem like too much to bear. To help deal with some of this aggravation, participant Alfonzo completed a nine week course called “Beating the Blues”. Alfonzo said the course taught him how to “stop and think before you act”, and to not let small problems become obstacles to success.
Life Skills Group member, Brian, says learning coping skills helped keep him on track as well because, “You get caught up and start to spiral downwards, and you stop making positive decisions because you’re afraid that you’ll just fail. So the Life Skills Group turned the light back on for me and showed me that it was possible to start using these skills to make positive decisions in my life again."
Bryan repaired furniture at the Philadelphia Furniture Bank.
Participants are also encouraged to have fun. Recently, participants attended a Philadelphia 76ers basketball game. Wayne says it was great to show the group that they could treat themselves for working so hard to rebuild their lives. However, the game also serves to reintegrate the members into the community by giving them experience interacting with everyday people at a social event.
In the end, it is the community that makes all this change possible. Without you, our Pathways community, people like Andre, Brian and Alfonzo would not be learning the life skills to begin the next chapter of their lives. However, you can continue to help inspire participants to improve themselves, their communities, and to change the negative’s in their lives into positives.