MIDDLETOWN — Only the journey from Puerto Rico to Middletown was longer for the DeJesus family than their ordeal to home ownership.
The family moved to Middletown in September 2017 after Hurricane Maria killed 3,059 people, including 2,975 in Puerto Rico. The Category 5 hurricane devastated their home, described as a “small shack” that had no water or electricity, said Jean DeJesus.
Once they settled in Middletown and moved into a mobile home, DeJesus said the family’s goal were for him and his wife, Katiria, to obtain full-time jobs with health benefits; increase their income; change their career paths; and buy their first home.
Six years later, the “dream has come true,” he said.
He was introduced to Pathway of Hope, founded in 2011 by the Salvation Army and started seven years later in Middletown. They met one-on-one with Salvation Army representatives who guided them through how to improve their credit rating that eventually led to home ownership.
“We had the drive and the dream was there,” said DeJesus, 31, who has three children, Amaya, 11, Anais, 8, and Dylan, 5. “They helped us get those goals into action.”
They closed on the house on Aberdeen Drive last month and the Salvation Army and the Realtor are hosting a housewarming celebration on Saturday.
Maj. Jud Laidlaw, corps officer for the Middletown Salvation Army, said while the agency assisted the DeJesus family throughout the home ownership process, the couple made the necessary sacrifices and commitment.
“We didn’t do it for them; we did it with them,” he said.
Shalon Price, regional coordinator of the program, said with the “correct support” dreams can be realized.
Laidlaw said the family’s struggles aren’t unique. Some families need clothes and groceries due to their limited financial resources, while others need assistance with purchasing a home.
Pathway of Hope provides targeted services to families with a desire to take action to break the generational cycle of crisis and enable a path out of poverty, Price said.
Pathway of Hope is “a significant program” and the Salvation Army “walks with them every step of the way because they don’t have the tools,” according to Laidlaw.
Laidlaw, who has been in Middletown for four years, said the agency helps families that are “sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
That’s when they make the life-changing decision to “stand on their own two feet,” he said.
While owning a home is “such a good story” for the DeJesus family, it’s also positive for the Middletown community, Laidlaw said. Families that own their homes are more likely to care for their property, he said.
By improving their lives, Jean and Katiria DeJesus have shown their children the path to success, one Price hopes they follow as they get older.
“It’s not about being rich,” she said. “It’s about making a better life for your children.”
WHAT PATHWAY OF HOPE OFFERED THE DEJESUS FAMILY
The Pathway of Hope program requires that participants have one child under the age of 18. Pathway of Hope also has programs in Hamilton, Dayton, Springfield, Sidney, Portsmouth and Lexington.
- Intensive case management to help end poverty;
- Community referrals related to job opportunities;
- Resume reviews;
- Spiritual support;
- Referral to Realtors for housing and credit counseling;
- Access to other referral services;
- Financial support to pay bills when needed;
- Paid off some expenses and past debts for the family, which was preventing them from improving their credit score and buying their first home;
- Food pantry assistance;
- Christmas assistance, including food and gifts for children;
- Regular 1:1 meetings and/or Zoom meetings with the Case Manager and Regional Coordinator to ensure the family was meeting and/or obtaining their goals and desires;
- Assessments were conducted with the family every 90 days to measure their areas of improvement. This also included budgeting sessions, career coaching, emotional support, and collaborating with agencies and/or organizations to resolve the families’ past financial issues.
- Developed a plan of action for them and they followed the steps;
- Focus on the spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and social growth of the family.
SOURCE: Salvation Army
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