Editorial | Name in the News CEO sees AUW’s role as ‘weaver’ in helping ease homelessness crisis By Shannon Tangonan email@example.com June 17, 2016 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! 2016 June 13 photo by Craig T. Kojima On Monday, June 13. Cindy Adams, President and CEO of Aloha United Way in her office. For Cindy Adams, the concept of community service became second nature growing up in a church-centered household. Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. For Cindy Adams, the concept of community service became second nature growing up in a church-centered household. “That is what started me, early on, to appreciate what community service means,” said Adams, president and chief executive officer of Aloha United Way (AUW) since 2014. Her father served in leadership positions in church, becoming a pastor on Hawaii island, and her mother would marshal the children every Sunday and Wednesday. At a young age, community service meant summer outreach to Kuhio Park Terrace youths, and taking food baskets and flowers to senior citizens in care homes during the holidays. Adams said her upbringing, startup business background and experience as founding executive director of the Hawaii Meth Project have prepared her for her current role at AUW. Startups require high energy and the ability to multitask, she said, while the Meth Project was transformative because its entire focus is on prevention. And prevention is key in addressing any social issue, including the state’s homeless crisis, Adams said. AUW has played a prominent role in the fight against homelessness and in the fall agreed to administer $5 million in emergency funding — $4.7 million of which is being distributed through nonprofits to qualified recipients in need of housing assistance. The yearlong goal is to keep or place 2,900 people in permanent housing. A small portion of the funding enabled AUW to expand its 211 service to include a Homeless Coordination Center, allowing specialists to link callers with appropriate service agencies. While the emergency funding is a shot in the arm to reduce homelessness, much more coordination between public, private and nonprofit sectors needs to occur, Adams said. Adams believes AUW can play an integral role, and hopes to leverage her experience in both the private and nonprofit sectors. Adams earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in marketing from the University of Hawaii at Hilo and previously served as vice president of sales and marketing for CBI Polymers in Texas. She lives in Kakaako and enjoys spending time with family, including her two grandsons. Question: How was AUW chosen to administer $5 million in emergency state funding targeting homelessness? Answer: The Department of Human Services, in the fall of last year, they said they were going to have a pocket of money, about $5 million that they wanted to move out into the community across the state to help address specific target populations in the homeless population. That kind of initiated the conversations. … Why Aloha United Way? We currently manage, and have been for a number of years, the federal government Food and Shelter program. It’s something that’s statewide. … Given that we have infrastructure in place, we have processes in place, they thought, rightly so, that we could leverage that in order to help move this money out into the community fairly rapidly. We executed the contract on Feb. 15 and by April 15, the 18 nonprofits across the state had money to start servicing potential clients, which would be individuals and families. Q: What are the specific homeless populations this funding will target? A: Out of the $5 million, $4.7 million is for rent deposit (and) utility assistance. … The $4.7 million, 50 percent of that is targeted for Oahu and 50 percent for the neighbor islands. And of the $4.7 million, 50 percent is prevention of homelessness and 50 percent rapid rehousing. Prevention of homelessness means someone is currently housed, they’ve received an eviction notice, they’re in the process of getting evicted from their property, which means they would probably become homeless. Q: And you hear about that through 211? A: We hear about it through 211, we hear about it through partner agencies or service provider nonprofits calling us and saying that they have clients that they want to support or provide assistance to. The other 50 percent are individuals and families who are currently homeless, but close to becoming housed and short either the deposit or some amount of money. The requirement of the contract is that we are capped at three payments per individual or family and they must be sustainable from that point forward. So as a part of the qualification of these individuals and families, the case managers in their communities are doing the assessments. They’re making sure that they have budgets in place, they have financial literacy education and jobs so that they know how they are going to sustain this moving forward. What is interesting, though, if you think about those two audiences, first of all, the ones who are at risk but currently housed are not homeless people. So the import of that segment of the population is, without this help, they would likely fall into homelessness. This is trying to keep them out of the homeless pipeline. Q: When the $5 million runs out, then it’s done? A: It’s a year-long contract with a six-month option to extend at no cost. Which means we would exercise that option because we haven’t spent all that money yet. At the current rate that we’re moving, and with some reasonable projections, there’s a possibility that we could end up expending all of the $4.7 million before the end of the year, which would be just short of 12 months. … At what point, if any, do we hit a hurdle where there is no more housing inventory for us to move people into? Q: Who is keeping track of making sure there’s enough inventory out there to move people off the street? A: That’s a good question. I’m not sure anybody is holistically keeping track of all that. Part of that HMIS Homeless Management Information System was supposed to help with that. I don’t know if it has that capacity to do that, but … ideally you would have access to real-time information: Here’s a client who needs a house, here’s a two-bedroom house that you can move that family into; here’s a client that only needs a one-bedroom or studio place. My understanding is I don’t think we’re there yet. Q: Is this more like a welfare program, rather than really applying that money and the help to get people off the street? A: There is other funding and there are other programs addressing other segments of the homeless population. This is just one initiative in the whole pie. This is not to the exclusion of the other programs being funded to serve the homeless population, which includes Housing First, chronically homeless who maybe don’t meet these requirements. … This is the challenge with prevention, and I’m a huge advocate for prevention. It’s very difficult to say, unless you withhold that assistance and watch them fall into homelessness, that what you did was the right thing to do. We do know that once somebody falls into homelessness, the cost associated with that is significantly more than these three payments. Q: To what extent are you delaying the inevitable? A: So that’s kind of the $60,000 question. On the one hand I don’t think we know because we don’t have data, I mean as a state, that says if you didn’t give them that one month’s coverage, they would have come up with it on their own. Q: Are they tracked beyond the three months? A: They are tracked for six months. There isn’t this longitudinal data that says after 12 months, after 18 months, after so many years, that this was the right investment to make. Q: How does the 211 system come into play? When somebody calls into 211, we have something that we call a homeless assessment tool. And with the state grant we’ve really refined that assessment tool in order to have a clearer picture, a better defined picture of the person that we’re talking to on the other end of the telephone. … For example, if somebody calls in, we also are trying to see if they qualify for SNAP benefits, for a free bus card, prepaid mobile phones. … We’re really trying to determine whether there are other services and programs that would help them continue to be sustainable. Q: When you hear things about the growing homeless problem, how does that make you feel? A: More motivated. This is a problem that has been growing for many, many years. The opportunity is for us to be more coordinated across the state — federal down to county, nonprofit, business sector. There is so much more coordination that needs to happen in order to create the critical mass and the synergy that will be required to dramatically address this problem. Q: Where do you see AUW as part of this whole spectrum of services and outreach support? A: Somebody shared kind of an interesting image with me; I was having this conversation earlier today. I said “a facilitator.” She used the word “weaver” — somebody who takes each of these threads and weaves them together. So that what you get in the end is something that is much stronger than any one of the threads by themselves. I do believe that that’s a role that we can play. We’re not the nonprofit in the community case managing. That’s not what we do. I think that we have a responsibility to our community to be in this weaving role, for lack of a better word. Q: Are there other areas of your organization that you want to highlight? A: Education, poverty prevention and safety net services. We support programs and services in each of these impact areas … (through) community impact grants and funding. … (There’s also) early intervention for children and for mothers who are expecting and children. If you think about all of the special issues and community issues, a lot of that can go all the way back to what circumstance was this child born into. What can we do at the very earliest part of the cycle to provide these children the best opportunities in life? … We’ve invested in two specific communities — Kalihi and Waianae — in early childhood development, early screenings for children so that we could potentially identify those at risk for developmental delay and connect the family with services to help with that. As much as possible the goal is to prevent them from falling into the special education track. Q: How has fundraising been lately? Is it more difficult to round up donations through workplace campaigns? A: It’s going well, as much as anybody can say fundraising is going well. There are a couple of national trends and Hawaii is not an exception. For the last five years, there’s a shift away from social services. The shift has been to colleges and universities, and cultural arts. That’s kind of where the big endorsements go. … If I look at our campaign … it’s who we can relate to. So much of the giving is, “I give to this organization because my mom and dad or my aunty, brother, were served by it.” … I think the other kind of the trend we are seeing, not specific to Hawaii, is the change in demographics of the donor, young professionals who have entered the workforce. … The challenge for every organization in Hawaii is to identify our relevance to those donors and how to get them engaged. Q: How do you engage the younger donors? A: I think it’s a combination of social media as a vehicle, engaging in affinity groups. … I saw something that said that women give more than men and so there are women affinity groups. We have one, it’s called Women United. It’s kind of the shifting demographics of the donors. Q: Was it unprecedented for the AUW to administer such a large amount of state funding? A: It was not something we have received in the past. A lot of things are about relationships, trust and timing. I think those things all played a role in that decision — on both parts, by the way. I think there’s an opportunity for more of these kinds of private-public partnerships. Government can’t do everything. That would mean taxpayers would be paying for everything. There’s not enough tax money to address all of the social issues, so there has to be private participation — human resources, brain power. We’ve got to do a better job of leveraging that moving forward. There’s so much that we can accomplish. Sometimes it just doesn’t occur to us because we’re not used to thinking that way. Q: Any other issues you want to address? A: I would say that I’m optimistic, particularly about the homeless problem. … I see more cross-sector collaboration. I think there’s greater awareness. I think that the problem has hit a critical level where people are motivated to do something about it and then you have to think about getting coordinated and work the problem through to completion. … The alternative is too scary. Sometimes fear is a great motivator. Everyone in our community has a responsibility. … I don’t think anyone is not affected. Previous Story Thompson Academy administrators dedicated and talented Next Story E ao Hawai’i, mai puni iā Maleka!