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Debra and Chris Morgan have spent the past year living out of a single hotel room with their two sons, Sebastian and Max (ages 11 and 5), in Independence, Mo. The Morgans’ previous landlord had gone bankrupt, forcing them to out of their rental home and into a single room for the family of four.
“In the hotel room, there wasn’t much coping that we could do. There wasn’t a lot of space,” Debra said. “My five-year-old son still thinks the hotel is home, which is hard because that was the first place he ever thought of as home… It was harder on our older boy, Sebastian, because he couldn’t have friends over.”
Debra explained one of her family’s biggest struggles while living in the hotel was the lack of play space for her children.
“The biggest thing we did is try to spend time going to parks and being different places, because there was no place to play. Our hotel didn’t even have an ice machine.”
While making ends meet living out of a hotel room, Debra and Chris Morgan hear about The Salvation Army’s Pathway of Hope program, a new initiative offering a high-impact and intensive case management approach that helps families in crisis move toward self-sufficiency. The Morgans make a visit to The Salvation Army’s Independence Corps location, where they meet Salvation Army Case Worker Kim Bloss and learn more about Pathway of Hope. They ultimately decide to enroll their family in the program.
“To be honest, I was a bit leery since people had tried to help us before and it never seemed to stick,” Debra said, “But Kim has always been different. She’s always been really nice, open and sweet. She didn’t want to give up.”
The Morgan family of four begin to meet regularly with Salvation Army Case Worker Kim Bloss, who starts the family on the Pathway of Hope program and offers to cover some of their basic needs, provide financial assistance and help with groceries. Kim helps parents Debra and Chris search for housing, as they have been living out of a hotel for the past year. Kim also guides them through a long-term financial plan to get them back on their feet. Her help extends far beyond material support.
“We would be in the bread pantry and we would just talk. She would talk about how the kids were and I’d ask her about her children and we’d just talk,” Debra said. “It was like I was talking to a friend who was there to help me and say ‘it’s going to be OK’ without having to say it. Her smile and the kindness were just all I needed.”
One month into the Salvation Army Pathway of Hope program, the Morgan family catches one of their biggest breaks in a long time, signing a lease on a three-bedroom rental home in Independence. The family was previously living in a hotel, with very little space for their two sons, Sebastian and Max, to play or invite friends over. Case Worker Kim helps them through much of the process, including assistance with items like the security deposit, utilities, furniture and other needs to get them started in their new family home.
“After a year in a hotel room, it was a huge deal to finally have a house again. It was great to finally be able to look at my children and say that we have a home. This is ours,” Debra said. “Kim was also great in helping us get new furniture, since we had sold most of ours prior to moving in because we had been paying for multiple storage lockers.”
Despite moving out of a hotel and into their new home, unexpected roadblocks and expenses start to bring challenges for Debra and Chris Morgan. Debra admits that their family’s journey through the Pathway of Hope program hasn’t been a walk in the park, but Case Worker Kim is always there to lend a helping hand when the going gets tough. For the Morgans, it’s Kim’s moral support and encouragement that make the biggest impact on their situation and motivated them to continue working hard and staying in the program.
“Sometimes people don’t understand that it’s not just the financial help, it’s the encouragement and having someone in your corner saying, ‘You can do this. You’ve got this.’ Kim helped us lay out our goals and kept us reminded and refreshed on what we had to do in the process to keep going forward. There are times we both felt like giving up and just saying forget it, but when you have kids, you can’t do that. You can’t just give up.”
Now that they’ve settled into a new home, the Morgans begin to thrive as a family. Previously, the family of four lived in a hotel for a year and encountered some financial hurdles. The relationship between brothers Sebastian and Max greatly improved once they each have more personal space and bedrooms of their own. Salvation Army Case Worker Kim, who has helped the family along their journey in the Pathway of Hope program, has also connected the Morgans with a nearby speech therapy program for Max, who is about a year from starting elementary school but is still struggling to articulate his words and communicate with others.
“I think we’re stronger as a family,” Debra said. “The boys have become better, with them having more space between each other and not being constantly on top of each other. That’s helped with some of the fighting. It has also helped Sebastian, because he can walk outside and go play instead of being stuck in a room with Max.”
After a year in the program, the Morgan family graduated from Pathway of Hope and are happily back on their feet. Chris and Debra each found employment, and sons Sebastian and Max are beginning to love their new house, where they have more space to themselves and a backyard to play in, versus their previously living conditions in a single hotel room.
“It’s amazing what you can overcome,” Debra said. “Even living in the hotel room, we never felt like we were truly hurting, because we were able to pay the bills, we had food, we had a roof over our kids’ head. It wasn’t the best roof, but at least we had that roof over their head and we were together.”
Throughout her journey with them, Pathway of Hope Case Worker Kim knows that something about this family is different than the many others she had worked with in her 12 years with The Salvation Army.
“I feel like they were pretty driven, since they were staying in a hotel when I first met them and they were just looking for housing,” Kim said. “I’ve had about 65 families in the (Pathway of Hope) program, but to complete the whole process through graduation and the 12-month follow-up, there have probably only been about 10 families out of those. It’s great to see them get through and it’s impressive.”
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