Eight nonprofit organizations that have been working together to move homeless families out of shelters and into permanent homes faster have recruited six more agencies from across the state and are vowing to “end” homelessness for island families by the end of the year.
“The goal is to end family homelessness, and we made the commitment that the job wasn’t done,” said Darryl Vincent, chief operating officer for U.S. Vets, one of the original eight organizations brought together by the Hawaii Community Foundation three years ago under a program called HousingASAP.
This year the group expanded to 14 organizations, which collectively call themselves HousingASAP 2.0.
They won’t literally eliminate family homelessness across Hawaii this year, but they hope their organizations collectively reach a point of “functional zero,” which they define as finding permanent homes for island families within 30 days after they become homeless — while housing more families.
“In lay terms, functional zero means that the number of people you are placing into housing in one month’s time is greater than the number of people who are newly becoming homeless,” said Christine van Bergeijk, the Hawaii Community Foundation’s senior vice president for strategies, initiatives and networks. “It doesn’t mean no one would ever be homeless again. It means homelessness becomes a rare and short-lived experience for a family.”
While many of the HousingASAP 2.0 groups continue to house homeless military veterans and so-called chronically homeless adults — those on the street the longest, who often have mental and substance abuse issues — they are collectively focusing on homeless families with renewed energy and the firepower from six additional agencies.
“It’s a moral obligation to get the families off of the street,” Vincent said. “It’s no kid’s fault to be on the street. We have to stop the cycle of children’s homelessness.”
The original eight organizations were Catholic Charities (statewide), Family Life Center (Maui and Kauai), Family Promise of Hawaii (Oahu), Institute for Human Services (Oahu), Kahumana Community/ASI (Oahu), U.S. Vets (Oahu), Waikiki Health (Oahu) and Hope Services Hawaii (Hawaii island).
This year they recruited six new groups: Ka Hale a ke Ola Homeless Resource Centers (Maui), Kalihi-Palama Health Center (Oahu), Legal Aid Society of Hawaii (Oahu), Parents and Children Together (Oahu), Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center (Oahu) and Hawai’i Affordable Properties — Ulu Wini (Hawaii island).
The Hawaii Community Foundation and a dozen funding organizations brought the original members together after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development began pushing all states toward the so-called Housing First model, which says it’s more effective for agencies to get homeless people off the street and out of shelters quickly and into permanent housing, then deal with their issues.
“The local shelters were not prepared to make that transition,” van Bergeijk said. “A lot of them dug in, hoped it would pass them over.”
The first three years of HousingASAP forced the original organizations to do a better job of collecting data and recalibrate their efforts to get homeless people into permanent homes, rather than trying to address all of their problems in a shelter.
They also had to learn to share information with organizations that sometimes compete for the same sources of funding.
The HousingASAP 2.0 group has now met twice this year, and before the start of this month’s meeting, Brandee Menino, CEO of Hope Services Hawaii, said the group is focused on ending homelessness for island families.
“These partners are of like mind and share the same mission and vision,” Menino said. “We knew we needed to expand our network to get that work done.”