Gov. Neil Abercrombie's 90-Day Plan on Homelessness concluded Monday with 65 Mauians, and nearly 500 people statewide, making the move from homelessness to permanent housing, the governor's office reported.
The plan, which began May 17, led to coordination and collaboration among government, nonprofit organizations and faith-based groups, and businesses to tackle the problem of homelessness in the state, a news release from the governor said. The Hawaii Interagency Council on Homelessness, created by the governor July 19, will meet for the first time Aug. 25 "to continue coordination efforts" and develop a long-range plan for dealing with homelessness in Hawaii, the news release said.
Leaders at two of the nonprofit organizations that handled the majority of the 65 Mauians' cases said the 90-Day Plan, created by the governor and his homeless coordinator, Marc Alexander, brought more awareness to the homeless problem and the need for coordination among groups working with the homeless.
However, it was pretty much business as usual at Ka Hale A Ke Ola Homeless Resource Center and the Maui Family Life Center during that period. No additional funds accompanied the plan, they added.
"I think it's a good thing . . . I wish there was money attached to it," said Maude Cumming, executive director of the Family Life Center in Kahului, on Monday.
Becky Woods, chief executive officer of Ka Hale A Ke Ola Homeless Resource Center, said she believes the goal of the governor's plan was to generate awareness in the community about homelessness. Woods added that she and her staff were mindful of the 90-Day Plan.
"It seems to be an issue that is pushed aside, at the same time it is so critical during this economic downturn," she said.
Cumming said that the two main causes of homelessness on Maui are "poverty and the lack of affordable housing." On the poverty side of the ledger, she noted that Mauians teeter into homelessness when they lose hours at work. Others face poverty due to substance abuse, mental illness and child care issues that prevent them from finding and holding jobs.
There is employment to be had even in these tough times, Woods said.
"Jobs are hard to find, but they are there," she said. "You may have to work three times harder," maybe taking two jobs, but "they (her clients) do find them."
On the affordable rentals side, Cumming said she has seen more units within her clients' reach since the economic downturn, but a family with five children still can't find a rental for $900 a month.
As chairwoman of the Maui Homeless Alliance, a group of nonprofit organizations and government agencies that deals with the homeless on the island, Cumming said she and her agency were the referral point for the 90-Day Plan. The public still may contact Maui Family Life Center with referrals or questions about homelessness at 877-0880 or by email at email@example.com.
Her program was responsible for 21 households leaving homelessness during the 90-Day Plan.
The Family Life Center at 95 S. Kane St. runs a 15-bed emergency shelter for women and children. Clients may stay up to six weeks, which may be extended if they show progress. Some families have stayed as long as a year, said Cumming.
"Right now, we are turning people away because we are full," said Cumming, adding that it is heartbreaking. "We have a lottery; we have to pull names."
By December, they hope to have 50 beds - for men, women and children - with the completion of an expansion project, she said.
The Family Life Center also provides rental assistance - including grants for deposits for first- and last-month rent and utilities, often a barrier to obtaining housing - and outreach services to people who are homeless. The agency also offers food, clothing and mail service.
A goal of the Family Life Center is to prepare clients for Ka Hale A Ke Ola's transitional housing program, said Cumming.
Ka Hale A Ke Ola allows residents to stay as long as two years in its facility, though the average length of stay is 18 months, said Woods. She said Ka Hale A Ke Ola is not an "eat and sheets" program but works with homeless clients to gain the skills and resources necessary to find permanent housing and to stay in it.
"You really do have to earn your way and be productive," she said.
Clients have to take classes on life skills, financial awareness and maintenance of units. The agency offers rental assistance and works with landlords, provides child care including the Head Start program, and has a medical clinic and substance abuse treatment programs.
Ka Hale A Ke Ola also provides an emergency housing program, where people can stay up to six weeks, she said.
Woods said her agency accounted for nearly 30 of the 65 Mauians who moved into permanent housing during the 90-Day Plan. She said her agency serves nearly 550 individuals and families in emergency and transitional housing facilities in Kahului and Lahaina.
The Salvation Army and Women Helping Women accounted for the balance of the homeless who made it into permanent housing during the 90-Day Plan on Maui, said Cumming.
The homeless have this negative persona; "nobody wants them," said Woods.
Her program and others work to bring change to their lives - with compassion.
"We see the other side," said Woods. "They are just like you and me."
* Lee Imada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.