"It feels so good to have my own home." Luisa just beams with joy when she talks about having a place to call her own. "Would you like to see a picture?" she asks as she holds up her phone.
It's the little things that mean the most to Luisa. Like having a clean kitchen to make family meals in and a sense of safety and security for her 9 year old twin boys. 11,at was just a dream 2 years ago when Luisa was homeless. Luisa got the keys to her apartment in spring, 2017, thanks to the help of The Salvation Army's Pathway of Hope Case Manager, Stella.
Luisa was deeply traumatized after narrowly averting a violent attack by someone she had once considered her friend. Her children were sleeping just a few feet away. After a brief stay in emergency housing, she ended up homeless - going from one unsavory shelter to the next.
Luisa knew that her family was teetering on the edge of disaster. She had no income and her family was hungry. She wanted stability for her two sons, but simply couldn't find a path forward.
That all changed when Luisa came to 11,e Salvation Army's Corps Community Center in New Haven for food in June, 2016. Luisa thought she would be leaving 11,e Salvation Army that day with a bag of food, but "Stella had a different plan in mind," she says with a smile.
As part of The Salvation Army's effort to help hard-working, dedicated families learn how to lift themselves out of the cycle of poverty, Pathway of Hope Case Manager, Stella, was seeking families to participate. She suggested Luisa come back to be evaluated for the program.
Never one to pass up an opportunity, Luisa came back, was enrolled in Pathway of Hope and began working on an action plan. First order of business - stable housing.
"I've been to a lot of different organizations for help, but I never felt that someone cared as much about me as Stella did - never." Luisa says. "She would call me just to let me know that she was thinking about me. I knew it was real."
"When we provide people with support to move from one life goal to the next, we can see their personal growth, confidence, and optimism grow right in front of our eyes," remarked Brenda Downing, 11,e Salvation Army's Director of Social Services.
Pathway of Hope is 'a doing with,' not 'a doing for' and that's what makes it so transformative.
Today, Luisa's boys are making top grades at a magnet school in New Haven and are attending after-school enrichment programs at both the Boys and Girls Club as well as The Salvation Army's summer camp and Corps Community Center. Luisa continues to pursue continuing education as well.
"Pathway of Hope helped me believe again. Stella tells me all the time she thinks I can do it. It's just nice to hear someone say that," said Luisa. "I'm so happy now. I have a beautiful home, my boys are happy in school and I want to see them go to college."