Woods steps down as CEO of nonprofit for homeless

Rebecca Woods has resigned as chief executive officer of Ka Hale A Ke Ola Homeless Resource Centers.

Ka Hale A Ke Ola Board President Marc Chesick said that the board accepted Woods’ resignation Tuesday. The board will meet next week to form a search committee for a new chief executive officer, he said Thursday.

“We’ll look at what our needs are in 2014 and what would be the best way to go in hiring somebody,” he said, adding that the search committee would look for “the best possible candidate.”

Ka Hale A Ke Ola’s 2012 filing with the Internal Revenue Service reports that Woods was earning $99,218 in reportable compensation and $8,080 in estimated other compensation.

In 2012, the agency had total revenue of $3,494,541, including $406,406 in program service revenue and $3,053,439 in contributions and grants. Its total expenses in 2012 were $4,506,420 – leaving the agency with a deficit of $1,011,879.

In addition, the nonprofit agency has not made payments on a $4,055,000 Maui County loan dating back to 1998 for the development of Hale Makana O Waiale, a low-income housing facility. (A separate county loan of $4 million was granted in 2005 to Ka Hale A Ke Ola for building its Lahaina housing facility.)

Noting that Woods worked with the low-income and transitional housing agency for 11 years, Chesick said: “We appreciate her years of service and all she’s done with the agency. We wish her well in her future endeavors.”

Contacted by phone Thursday morning, Woods said she didn’t want to comment to The Maui News because news stories about the Maui County Council’s review of Ka Hale A Ke Ola’s management of its Hale O Makana rental project have been “one-sided” and unfair.

“I love the agency,” she said. “I wish it well. It does a good job for the community.”

Woods leaves Ka Hale A Ke Ola after it came under fire in June, July and February before the council’s Housing, Human Services and Transportation Committee. The panel launched a review of the agency’s operations and received a $15,000 county-commissioned study by Cirrus Asset Management Inc. in Honolulu.

The study found that Ka Hale A Ke Ola’s low-income rental project, Hale Makana O Waiale in Wailuku, was “significantly over-staffed” and that improved management could increase rental income by $127,000 per year, decrease payroll by $400,000 annually and reduce other expenses by $100,000.

The study found that Hale Makana’s payroll costs were nearly three to four times higher than comparable affordable housing properties on Maui and three times higher than comparable market properties on the island.

The Cirrus report made 40 detailed recommendations, ranging from reorganizing staffing to outsourcing landscape maintenance, trash collection and pest control.

At a council committee meeting in February, Woods disputed the accuracy of the Cirrus report, complaining that the consultant did not give the agency a chance to review or comment on its content before it was submitted to the county Department of Housing and Human Concerns.

Woods submitted to council members a 15-page written response to the Cirrus report, with the first six pages being copies of photos from the Sunset Terrace, Front Street and Weinberg apartments. When asked about the relevance of the photos Thursday, Woods said that they show poor management at those complexes by Cirrus, which was being critical of management at Hale Makana.

Daniel Gavin, Cirrus’ vice president and principal broker, told council committee members last month that Cirrus no longer manages those facilities. But Woods said it ended its management a month before the photos were taken.

“They were a mess,” she said.

In her written critique of the Cirrus report, Woods said it was “completely inaccurate” in reporting that Ka Hale A Ke Ola needs 15 employees to maintain Hale Makana’s 200 units in Wailuku. The maintenance staff handles three facilities – Hale Makana and Ka Hale A Ke Ola’s projects in Wailuku and Lahaina.

She said last month that Ka Hale A Ke Ola’s maintenance staff had been downsized from 17 to 14, two of whom were required to pick up supplies and oversee and assist contractors.

Chesick said that the agency’s board has been in communication with Maui County to discuss and address issues in the report.

Although he said there were “some things inaccurate” in the Cirrus report, it nevertheless showed “things we should be looking at,” he said, adding that there were “good ideas in there” to “help us better serve our population.”

When asked about Woods’ written response to the Cirrus review, Chesick said that was “something she did as CEO,” and it was “not something that came across our desk,” referring to board members.

When asked if he disputed the report’s contention that the facility is over staffed, Chesick said “that may be accurate. We are definitely looking into that.”

When asked about the prospect of the agency repaying loans to Maui County, Chesick said it was a complex question, but “we will take care of our responsibilities to the county. We’re working with the county to make that happen.”

The board is looking at contracting out maintenance and security at Hale Makana (which was a Cirrus recommendation) as a way to “get leaner,” by which Chesick said he meant staff reductions.

“Those things will be happening,” he said.

Other board members contacted Thursday were loath to speak publicly about the Woods resignation.

Board member John Decker said that the situation was “very complicated and very messy,” and the board had agreed that comments should come from Chesick.

The Rev. Gary Colton, a retired Catholic priest and a longtime board member, said that Woods’ background was in social work and she loved the clients at the facility.

“She worked long hours, worked very hard,” he said. “She gave everything.”

But Colton said he could not comment on personnel matters taken up in the board’s executive session.

Chesick said that Ka Hale A Ke Ola continues to have a staff of people “dedicated to helping the homeless population” and stopping the cycle of homelessness.

“It’s not an easy task,” he said.

Department of Housing and Human Concerns Director Jo-Ann Ridao said that she’s concerned about instability at Ka Hale A Ke Ola, noting the agency is a “very important partner in helping the county with our homeless situation.”

Regarding Woods’ resignation, which she learned from Chesick late Tuesday afternoon, Ridao said: “I think everybody wants to move on. People want change. I think this may be Becky’s time that she wants to move on.”

Ridao said that she was aware there were some layoffs at the agency, and she believed that would be difficult for Woods.

“That is hard on anybody who has employees,” she said, but she added that she wasn’t sure if the layoffs had anything to do with Woods’ resignation.

Council Member Stacy Crivello, chairwoman of the Housing, Human Services and Transportation Committee, said that she learned of Woods’ resignation Thursday.

“I don’t know all the details,” she said.

Crivello said the council and administration want Ka Hale A Ke Ola to find a way to repay its loans from the county while still providing housing to low-income residents.

“They’ve got to come up with a plan,” she said. “We just want to make sure the program continues to address the needs of the tenants and the vulnerable members of our community.”

Last year, Hale Makana had 85 employees, about 800 residents and a waiting list of approximately 400 individuals and families. Residents pay about $770 per month in rent.

According to its website, Ka Hale A Ke Ola Homeless Resource Centers began sheltering the homeless in 1986, utilizing an old church building in Puunene. Since 1993, the program has been housed on a 5-acre site in Wailuku, next to Hale Makana.

Ka Hale A Ke Ola-Westside was built through a partnership of the state, the county, the Weinberg Foundation and other funding sources, according to the website.

Ka Hale A Ke Ola provides basic services, linking with more than 50 human service agencies to provide for the clients’ needs, such as medical, mental health, vocational rehabilitation and financial services, according to the website.

* Brian Perry can be reached at