Catherine Kile, 19, found herself homeless almost immediately after giving birth to her daughter, Ava Nicole Larsen. Just five days after her daughter’s birth, Kile turned to the New Pathways program.
New Pathways is a homeless shelter program for families. Using a network of churches, families are housed at area churches for a week at a time, and the families spend their day either at work or at New Pathways, working toward permanent housing.
Kile, who had attended Pequot Lakes High School, moved around with her then-boyfriend, living with different family members. She then learned she was pregnant. The two had their own apartment at the end of May 2012, but were later evicted.
At only 11 weeks into her pregnancy, Kile had contractions and was told to lay low. The two moved in with her boyfriend’s stepfather, but the arrangement didn’t work.
Ava was born Jan. 16 of this year. Kile, her boyfriend and daughter entered the program, but the two split and Kile’s boyfriend left the program.
Months later, with the help of New Pathways, Kile was recently able to enter income-based housing.
Now three and a half months old, her daughter is enrolled in Tri-County Community Head Start.
Kile said the apartment she moved into has a room each for herself and Ava. She’s very pleased with the arrangement.
Kathy Carlson, program manager for New Pathways, said that getting into income-based housing was key to helping Kile get back on her feet.
“If she was paying $300-$500 for rent, she could never make it,” Carlson said. Kile’s rent will always be 30 percent of her income. Carlson said the cost of housing and limited availability of income-based housing is the biggest barrier the program sees with homeless families.
“That barrier was reduced (for Kile) and she’s able to realistically make it on her own,” Carlson said.
New Pathways partnered with other organizations to create a team of people who advocated for Kile. Generally the waiting lists for Head Start and income-based housing can be very long- sometime five years.
Now that Kile is into housing, Carlson said, she’ll be able to focus on finding a job.
New Pathways has many success stories like Kile’s. Rob Bylund shared his story by phone.
In his own words, Bylund has been “through the ringer and back.” He and his girlfriend lost everything after becoming involved with meth.
After treatment, the two came out with nothing- Bylund said they had lost their four kids, their home and their vehicles- “everything we had.”
“What we went through with all the meth use, we didn’t think anyone was going to help us,” Bylund said, “but they stepped up.”
He and his girlfriend are from Cambridge. They went to the New Pathways office in Brainerd for help.
Bylund and his family’s path back into housing was a complicated one. They spent four and a half months in the New Pathways program, denied housing over and over again, mostly due to information that came up on background checks. Bylund said it was information that should have been wiped from his girlfriend’s record, but wasn’t.
Bylund and his family ended up leaving the program to move in with family back in Cambridge, where his girlfriend had a job offer.
Three months later, the resume he created at New Pathways helped him get a job as a shop foreman, and eight months later, he and his family were able to buy a home.
“They say even after (meth) treatment, most people don’t wind up on their feet until after a five year program, and we were able to do it in just under two years,” Bylund said.
His girlfriend is now a customer service manager at Walmart, and they’re together with their kids, now ages 4, 7, 8 and 12.
“What helped us the most is we had nowhere to go and they opened doors to us with open arms,” Bylund said. “New Pathways, they do everything they can and they’re outreach is so strong.”
While he and his family had to leave the program before finding permanent housing, he said he feels that anyone who sticks with the program will find that it works.
New Pathways has a high success rate- 90 percent of families in the program leave it to permanent housing. Since 2005, the program has helped 215 families, including 288 adults and 397 children. New Pathways will hold their annual Tent City fundraiser on June 8. The fundraiser raises awareness of homelessness. For more information, call 218-454-0460.