As a single mom, working part time and also taking care of her mother, Monica Simmons, 38, was feeling overwhelmed. Her 13-year-old son, Corey, who has autism, was having trouble coping in school and Simmons was receiving frequent calls from teachers and school administrators. She was at her wit’s end.
Then one day, while attending church at The Salvation Army’s Chicago Temple Corps Community Center, staff member Carmen Staggers approached her offering help.
“Carmen knew my family from attending Sunday services,” Simmons said. “She knew Corey was having difficulty and that it created a lot of stress. She told me about the Pathway of Hope program, which could help me figure out how to help Corey in school and at home.”
The Salvation Army Pathway of Hope program helps families identify and overcome barriers that are holding them back from a life of stability. “Many families come who come through our program have basic needs such as maintaining safe housing or food, but there are other aspects of our lives that can create chaos,” said Karen Elliott, Regional Coordinator for the Pathway of Hope program. “We meet our clients wherever they are in life and help them move to a self-sufficient, productive and healthy state.”
Simmons was matched with Elliott. Together, they identified barriers to Corey’s success in school and the effect they were having on the entire family. “Corey was in a public school that couldn’t manage his outbursts. He was miserable, disruptive and falling behind,” Simmons said. “Karen helped me advocate for his care, and ultimately a transfer to a school designed to support kids with special needs.”
Corey is enjoying his new school. “He’s more settled. He’s learning how to cope, and the staff understand him,” said Simmons. And that translates into a calmer demeanor at home. Simmons says the stress level among the family has also decreased.
“Karen really cares about us,” said Simmons. “She taught me how to advocate for my family, she’s given us access to other support services, and she’s helped me create a support group for other families like mine. She really takes an interest in who we are, what we need and how we’re doing. We’re not alone.”
With Corey succeeding in school and in a weekly social group, Elliott says Simmons’ next focus should be herself. “She needs to practice some self-care,” she said. “Maybe sleep in a little bit, take a walk by herself, read or anything that brings her happiness and relaxation.”
Simmons is grateful to Elliott and The Salvation Army for the help. “People know that the Army helps with physical needs like food, clothing and shelter, but that’s not all. The staff also gives you spiritual and emotional support. There’s so much more to the Army.”
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