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From finding a single parent a job or a car, to providing parents with internet access or helping them access health insurance, to finding a homeless family permanent housing, New Pathways is more than just a homeless shelter, it’s about providing support where it’s needed to help families find their way home.
New Pathways is a nonprofit organization based in Cambridge that provides shelter and support services to families with children from central Minnesota experiencing homelessness. It provides services to families from Isanti (36%), Chisago (23%), Pine (9%), Kanabec (14%) and Mille Lacs (18%) counties.
The organization provides support through its Day Center in Cambridge where families receive shelter during the day, as well as case management, skills training, personal care items, internet access, and laundry and shower facilities. It also provides shelter for the families in the evenings by partnering with area churches, where meals and sleeping accommodations are provided to each family.
Since opening in 2000, New Pathways has served 625 families, including 847 adults and 1,150 children. The organization has turned away 930 families because the program was at capacity.
New Pathways is looking for help to continue to provide its many services to families in need.
Executive Director Mary Westlund encourages community members to give to New Pathways during Give to the Max Day
on Thursday, Nov. 14. Donations can be made online at www.givemn.org/story/NPI-2019, by mail to P.O. Box 366, Cambridge, MN 55008 or dropped off at 310 Ashland St. S., Cambridge. When donations are given online, New Pathways gets a chance to win a share of the $100,000 prize pool. Donations are now being accepted online through midnight on Nov. 14.
Westlund explained the organization is looking to raise $10,000 through the Give to the Max campaign and is also looking for an organization or individual to provide a matching grant.
Forty-eight percent of the children in the shelter are under the age of 5; 41% are ages 5-12 and 11% are ages 13-17.
“Families can come to us with just the clothes on their backs, which sadly happens often, and be OK. We give them the supplies and support they need to move out of survival mode and into thriving,” Westlund said.
As far as household types in the program, 44% are single mothers; 39% are dual parents; and 17% are single fathers.
Westlund explained New Pathways provides basic needs while families work with professional staff to resolve their housing crisis. New Pathways provides the day shelter and support services while area churches provide the night shelter, meals and hospitality.
“One single parent started work on her second day in program,” Westlund said. “She saved enough money to buy a car, which allowed her to work more. Within a month, she was able to save enough money to move into her own home again with her child.”
Westlund said New Pathways helps families get back on their feet.
“Recently, staff helped a parent get ready for a job interview by practicing questions and giving pointers,” Westlund said. “They interviewed so well that they got the job. Staff also helps families with resumes and getting interview-appropriate clothing.”
Westlund noted other examples of services recently provided by New Pathways include a single parent receiving a donated car; helping a child with special needs get connected to area resources; arranging for children in the program to continue to attend their normal schools so they don’t have an interruption in education; helping families get access to health insurance and health care; and recently, two families moved out of the shelter and into their own homes.
Westlund, who has been working for New Pathways for nearly 16 years, sees the difference the program makes in the lives of families.
“We are seeing an incline in our services with the cooler weather upon us; families who have been living in a tent or their cars are now looking for warmer places to stay and seeking shelter,” Westlund said. “We are also seeing more larger families who need larger apartments; these families are more of the working poor; they have jobs but just can’t make ends meet. We also just helped a mom who had a child going through some ongoing medical issues and since she had to be there for him, she was unable to work for a while. Our success stories in helping people come in all different sizes. Housing remains our top priority, but we do much more than that.”
Westlund explained even after New Pathways helps families secure housing, they stay in touch with them.
“After a family moves out of the shelter, we help them for the next six months with whatever they may need, including supplies,” Westlund said. “Our goal is to secure permanent housing for our families, which is usually an apartment, but we also work with them on temporary housing if they have some barriers they need to overcome.”
Westlund noted homeless families in central Minnesota don’t have access to as many resources as homeless families in the Twin Cities.
“The gaps are big here, and the community needs to come together to help fill these gaps,” Westlund said. “Regardless of the decisions of the parents, children are 100% innocent in all of this and shouldn’t have to worry about where their next meal is going to come from or whether they will have a bed to sleep in that night. We are here to help families get back on their feet and we need to continue to let these kids just be kids.”
For more information on New Pathways, visit newpathwaysmn.com or call 763-691-0121.