BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — November is National Homeless Youth Awareness Month, and local organizations are finding ways to break the cycle of chronic homelessness in the Birmingham area.
Pathways, located in the heart of Birmingham, offers various programs that provide hygiene care, classes, meals and emergency shelter. These services are offered through their Day Center, Stepping Stones program and Safe Haven program.
The Annual Homeless Assessment Report estimates Alabama had 3,752 homeless people in 2022. 5% of that number were unaccompanied youth.
Pathways Development Associate Katie Thompson said over 200 women are homeless in the streets of Birmingham every night. Thompson said there are also a lot of homeless families, but cases are severely under reported due to fear of DHR involvement.
Pathways’ Early Learning Center (ELC) addresses this problem head-on.
The ELC is a tuition-free nonprofit preschool with trauma informed and Montessori-inspired care to help children experiencing homelessness. Thompson said their childcare is very low barrier so any mother in Birmingham experiencing homelessness can use their services.
The ELC currently serves 22 children at a time, from ages 8 weeks old to 5 years old. Thompson said they hope to leave a positive impact as these are the most important years in child’s life for brain development.
“It’s really important because we want to overcome the cycle of poverty with families, and I think that giving children the opportunity to learn and a good place to learn is going to be key to break that cycle,” Thompson said.
The childcare director, Emily Bloyd, said it’s vital to teach children life skills like selfcare, care of environment and cleaning up after yourself. She said this also helps their mothers.
“Some of them are working full time, more than full time hours, and they have multiple children,” Bloyd said. “So, if we can teach the skills of independence of dressing ourselves, brushing our teeth, getting ready for the day, putting our shoes on, that’s relieving them of a huge time burden and a time commitment. It’s not one that they’re not willing to meet, but it’s something that can help them in their daily lives.”
Bloyd said Montessori teaching empowers children with free movement and independence, which can help them overcome barriers like homelessness, setting them up for success later in life.
Brittany Perrine and her baby girl Serenity utilize Pathways’ shelter and services. Perrine said she is grateful to have a safe place for her daughter to learn and grow while she works with Pathways assistance to get them back on their feet.
“It means a lot,” said Perrine. “It really helps, and it puts a smile on my face. A lot of times I feel alone but I feel like I’ve got somebody here.”
To learn more about Pathways and the programs they offer for women and children, visit their website here.