Alliance of Maui Community Association Meeting Last Evening Completes Three Years of Service

Alliance of Maui Community Association Meeting Last Evening (6/15/15)  Completes Three Years of Service

Two topics of County Wide Concern discussed, the future fate of Maui Memorial Memorial Hospital and the overwhelming challenges of homeless to our island

With two items of strong interest to our entire county community, we expected a full house, but with our two KCA Directors this evening (6/15/15),. we only had a half dozen guys to hear a presentation by Wesley Lo of HHSC and a team effort by Lisa Darcy, and Erin Lowenthal, the HAT ( Homeless Action Team) wahine. (For a professional report on this issue, including input from both of them, see article in Saturday’s Maui News , reproduced at end of this post.)

Wes Lo’s update on the Hospital situation was preceded by a historical report of the hospital from it’s inception by Dick Mayor. Then Wes gave a summation on this year’s session of the legislation, and the last minute intervention by the governor, including the most recent signing of the bill so the proposed public-private partnership, which could be made with up to four private entities, the two well publicized ones but also Sutter Health or Adventist West.

The expectation (hope) is that a partner will be finalized before the end of this year..

Next Lisa and Erin explained what each of the entities concerning the “homeless issue” did , Ka Hale A Ke Ola Homeless Resource Centers and Ho’omoana Foundation, and how the pooled resources and abilities to work together at HAT.

The next Alliance meeting in July will begin its forth year..

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Agencies providing assistance support ‘housing-first philosophy’

June 20, 2015

By CHRIS SUGIDONO – Staff Writer (csugidono@mauinews.com) , The Maui News

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Homelessness in Maui County has reached its highest point in five years with an estimated 1,137 people, but service providers believe that number is “extraordinarily conservative” and the real number is “probably double” the estimate provided by the state Department of Human Services.

The 2015 Statewide Point in Time count released Thursday by the DHS’ Homeless Programs Office tallied the number of sheltered and unsheltered homeless individuals and families throughout Hawaii at a single point in time. Maui County’s total rose by 12 percent, which is by far the highest in the state and triple that of the second-place Big Island’s 4 percent.

Conducted Jan. 25, Maui County’s report found:

* Sixty-five percent of all homeless individuals were singles and 35 percent were in a family unit.

* Forty-four percent of all homeless individuals and 78 percent of homeless families were sheltered.

* Eighty-six percent of sheltered families resided in transitional housing facilities, while the remaining 14 percent resided in emergency shelters.

* Seventy-four percent of all homeless individuals were sheltered in either emergency or transitional facilities.

While data show homelessness growing steadily in the county, agencies providing assistance to the homeless say that the numbers have generally stayed the same over the past few years and increases can be attributed to better data collecting.

However, assistance providers say homeless numbers are far greater than reported by the state and believe that a “housing-first philosophy” will help alleviate the problem.

Erin Lowenthal, chief executive officer of Ka Hale A Ke Ola Homeless Resource Centers, said that the statewide report has “historically, never accurately captured” the number of homeless in the county. She said the problem is not having enough people to cover the island and hand out surveys to potentially homeless people. Gaps also can occur when multiple families are living in one unit, when people are residing in cars and in other living situations.

Lowenthal said she has a waitlist of “400-plus” people trying to get into the nonprofit’s two shelters and affordable housing rental project.

“For the past several months we’ve been operating on a waitlist,” Lowenthal said Friday. “It ebbs and flows depending on the season, and at times we have dorm beds open but not all the time.”

The Wailuku center has 42 dormitory beds, 40 studios and 32 two-bedroom units. The Lahaina center has 42 dormitory beds, 24 studios and 24 two-bedroom units. The nonprofit also manages an affordable housing complex, Hale Makana O Waiale, in Wailuku that has 200 units.

Lowenthal said turnover in the centers is “highly dependent” on the individual or family, so it is difficult to say how long people may have to wait before they are sheltered. The nonprofit has an emergency program that lasts about six weeks and a transitional housing program that lasts up to about two years.

Lowenthal said that the housing complex has a wait time at least a year long, typically two.

“For a lot of our residents, they have jobs, they don’t have substance abuse problems – they are very capable individuals,” she said. “But with low wages and the high cost of living, they can’t afford month-to-month rent. I think, for most individuals, the ideal situation is to place them in housing and give them the services they need. It makes good sense and works for a lot of communities.”

Maude Cumming, the executive director of Family Life Center in Kahului, said that placing the homeless immediately in homes goes against their previous beliefs of transitioning them through shelters first. She said immediate permanent housing is cheaper and more effective, but requires support services to keep the person or family stable.

“There’s been a shift recently and we’re really focusing, not on just delivering services that help people like water, food and clothing,” Cumming said. “Assistance needs to lead to an outcome, and that’s finding a home.”

The center has two apartment buildings and an emergency shelter that can house up to 50 people a night. The 16-unit apartment building is at the back of the old TK Supermarket building and the six-unit one lies on Lower Main Street in Wailuku.

Cumming said that housing the chronically homeless is her main focus, considering they make up only 10 percent of the homeless population but use up 50 percent of the resources. A chronically homeless individual is someone with a disabling condition who has been continuously homeless for a year or more or has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years.

“If we can address that 10 percent, then you really free up resources and the community saves money,” she said.

Lisa Darcy, executive director of the Ho’omoana Foundation, helps break cycles of homelessness for individuals and acts as a job coach. She said in one day she might buy them a phone, help them with their resume and go to the store to buy steel-toed shoes.

“Within a day, they have a job offer. It can actually happen that fast,” she said.

Darcy said that acquiring a job is the first major step in getting housing but that options are limited on the island. Serving as one of the main facilitators of the Maui Homeless Alliance, she said that service providers and the community recognize a dire need for affordable housing and more access to the ones already available.

Lowenthal, who also is on the alliance, said she would like to see her nonprofit build another affordable rental project. She said there were talks of building one in Kihei, but they were silenced when the recession hit in the late 2000s.

Although her nonprofit provides the only transitional housing project on the island, she thinks it could be “substantially reduced” if there was more affordable housing on the island. She recognizes that the nonprofit will always have to serve a need as a shelter, but said that the problem will only be solved by taking people off the streets and putting them in permanent homes.

“The county has been a really helpful partner (and) provides more funding than any other county in the state,” Lowenthal said. “We need to increase focus on how we’re going to build more housing because, until we do that, we’re not going to see the numbers decrease.”

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at csugidono@mauinews.com.

© Copyright 2015 The Maui News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
, said that the statewide report has “historically, never accurately captured” the number of homeless in the county. She said the problem is not having enough people to cover the island and hand out surveys to potentially homeless people. Gaps also can occur when multiple families are living in one unit, when people are residing in cars and in other living situations.

Lowenthal said she has a waitlist of “400-plus” people trying to get into the nonprofit’s two shelters and affordable housing rental project.

“For the past several months we’ve been operating on a waitlist,” Lowenthal said Friday. “It ebbs and flows depending on the season, and at times we have dorm beds open but not all the time.”

The Wailuku center has 42 dormitory beds, 40 studios and 32 two-bedroom units. The Lahaina center has 42 dormitory beds, 24 studios and 24 two-bedroom units. The nonprofit also manages an affordable housing complex, Hale Makana O Waiale, in Wailuku that has 200 units.

Lowenthal said turnover in the centers is “highly dependent” on the individual or family, so it is difficult to say how long people may have to wait before they are sheltered. The nonprofit has an emergency program that lasts about six weeks and a transitional housing program that lasts up to about two years.

Lowenthal said that the housing complex has a wait time at least a year long, typically two.

“For a lot of our residents, they have jobs, they don’t have substance abuse problems – they are very capable individuals,” she said. “But with low wages and the high cost of living, they can’t afford month-to-month rent. I think, for most individuals, the ideal situation is to place them in housing and give them the services they need. It makes good sense and works for a lot of communities.”

Maude Cumming, the executive director of Family Life Center in Kahului, said that placing the homeless immediately in homes goes against their previous beliefs of transitioning them through shelters first. She said immediate permanent housing is cheaper and more effective, but requires support services to keep the person or family stable.

“There’s been a shift recently and we’re really focusing, not on just delivering services that help people like water, food and clothing,” Cumming said. “Assistance needs to lead to an outcome, and that’s finding a home.”

The center has two apartment buildings and an emergency shelter that can house up to 50 people a night. The 16-unit apartment building is at the back of the old TK Supermarket building and the six-unit one lies on Lower Main Street in Wailuku.

Cumming said that housing the chronically homeless is her main focus, considering they make up only 10 percent of the homeless population but use up 50 percent of the resources. A chronically homeless individual is someone with a disabling condition who has been continuously homeless for a year or more or has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years.

“If we can address that 10 percent, then you really free up resources and the community saves money,” she said.

Lisa Darcy, executive director of the Ho’omoana Foundation, helps break cycles of homelessness for individuals and acts as a job coach. She said in one day she might buy them a phone, help them with their resume and go to the store to buy steel-toed shoes.

“Within a day, they have a job offer. It can actually happen that fast,” she said.

Darcy said that acquiring a job is the first major step in getting housing but that options are limited on the island. Serving as one of the main facilitators of the Maui Homeless Alliance, she said that service providers and the community recognize a dire need for affordable housing and more access to the ones already available.

Lowenthal, who also is on the alliance, said she would like to see her nonprofit build another affordable rental project. She said there were talks of building one in Kihei, but they were silenced when the recession hit in the late 2000s.

Although her nonprofit provides the only transitional housing project on the island, she thinks it could be “substantially reduced” if there was more affordable housing on the island. She recognizes that the nonprofit will always have to serve a need as a shelter, but said that the problem will only be solved by taking people off the streets and putting them in permanent homes.

“The county has been a really helpful partner (and) provides more funding than any other county in the state,” Lowenthal said. “We need to increase focus on how we’re going to build more housing because, until we do that, we’re not going to see the numbers decrease.”

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at csugidono@mauinews.com.

© Copyright 2015 The Maui News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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