Women and Children’s Shelter helps women make long-term life changes while reconnecting them to community and God.
Each afternoon around 4:30, Tina Hildebrand looks around LifePath Christian Ministries Women and Children’s Shelter and smiles at the energy.
Kids are running off their pent-up energy, women are getting home from work, and Dexter, a fluffy little American Eskimo poodle mix who’s become the house dog, is weaving in and out of all the action.
Tina’s the director of Women and Family Ministry at LifePath, and her office door, which sits just inside the lobby, is always open.
It’s part of the warmth and compassion she brings to her work. She’s not separate or above the women staying at the shelter. It’s one small intention among many that makes LifePath unique.
LifePath Christian Ministries is donor-funded — the organization does not receive government money.
That’s an intentional choice, says LifePath chief program officer Steve Brubaker.
Being funded by donors means they can support people in ways they’ve found work best — with longer stays and programs to help change mindsets and heal souls.
“The government doesn’t have the ability to walk with women long term,” he says. “We do.”
Breaking the cycle
LifePath isn’t just a place to sleep. Every woman who comes through the doors is connected with a counselor. Individual needs are evaluated and, together, they set goals.
Mental health issues, domestic violence, substance abuse, catastrophic life events, and incarceration are just some of the things that lead women to LifePath.
For many, homelessness has been a cycle, a pattern in their life, often one that developed when they were children themselves, says Tina.
It took years to build the habits that led these women to homelessness, and it takes time to break those habits too, she says.
At LifePath, they work to not just meet the immediate need for shelter and security, but to examine the root cause behind the homelessness – and try to change that.
“We want to help these women develop a mindset that will change the way they’re living their lives,” Tina says.
No two women at LifePath are alike. That’s why individual goals and plans are so important. Beyond those personalized plans, there are two main tracks in addition to the emergency 30-day shelter to help women meet their long-term goals.
Women on the reconnect track stay three to six months at LifePath. While there, they can save up money, seek employment, and find the support they’ll need to make long-term changes.
The life management track is for women seeking a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. These women take classes and Bible studies and stay a year or longer.
Whatever their track, women at the shelter focus on relationship-building and live in community. They meet regularly with counselors and work to discover and change the root cause of their problems.
“When these women start to feel empowered in their life, it’s amazing to see the confidence that comes through,” Tina says.
People don’t change overnight.
It’s the little things that eventually add up, Tina says.
One situation at a time, one decision at a time, slowly changes are made until one day a person looks around and realizes they’re not who they were a year ago.
Even those who are successful at LifePath may cycle back.
On average, a person comes into a program seven times before it sticks and they sustain recovery, Steve says.
And that’s OK. LifePath is with these women for the long haul.
“We want to be there on the seventh time,” he says.
For Tina, success is seeing a woman who has become more self-aware, more responsible, who has found her voice.
She celebrates the small victories and makes sure every woman at LifePath knows that she sees them, and God sees them.
“Every life has value,” she says.
When a woman who comes through LifePath begins to see her value, that’s something worth celebrating.