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2000 Best Practice Awards

Best of the Best Winner: Hawaii

Best Practice: Alternative Structures International, dba Ohana Ola O Kahumana

Alternative Structures International Transitions Homeless to Permanent Housing

Waianae, Hawaii. Oha is the Hawaiian word for the roots of the taro plant, the sacred life-sustaining food of the Polynesians—a suitable image for the traditional Hawaiian extended family. Ola means life ever renewing. Kahumana is the word for guardian of the spirit. Together, Ohana Ola O Kahumana speaks to a deep reverence for life and respect for the uniqueness and capacity for growth inherent in all people. This name aptly describes a holistic approach designed to address the obstacles that prevent homeless adults with minor children from obtaining and retaining permanent housing through a coordinated effort of health, housing, financial and social services.

Ohana Ola participants are provided with safe, sanitary housing for up to 24 months. In return, families must participate in classes designed to address substance and domestic abuse issues, job readiness, nutrition, budgeting, and literacy. Full-time case managers work closely throughout the program with each family helping to identify barriers, develop strategies for addressing those barriers, and assist participants in reaching their goals as identified in a comprehensive plan. The case manager coordinates and participates in team meetings, accompanies clients to court hearings, makes referrals, provides counseling and advocates when necessary.

There is a strong emphasis on family strengthening and learning to make choices to insure a stable future for oneself and dependents. Children are at the core of this focus. Parenting skills are taught and therapy is often indicated for both parents and child to promote healing and bonding. To promote stability and self-sufficiency, Ohana Ola has a mandatory savings program in which 4% of income or $25 minimum monthly is held in trust and distributed directly to vendors for rental fees, security deposits, moving expenses and utility fees once the family exits the program. Ohana Ola also emphasizes the importance of community building. The seven duplexes housed on Ohana Ola’s leased land are set in a circle with the childcare center in the middle. The layout is an important factor in maintaining security and sobriety, and building family and community values, as well as interdependence and accountability.

The program, which relies on outside resources, has developed an extensive network of partners to assist in its operations. The Housing and Community Development Corporation of Hawaii, the State Stipend Homeless Program, Department of Community Services and Volunteer Legal Services of Hawaii (VLSH) provide pro bono services to Ohana Ola clients. VLSH also operates instructional clinics on tax preparation and employment rights. Waipahu Community School supplies instructors. Ohana Project and Families as Allies assist and instruct children with social, behavioral and emotional problems. A host of other partners provide assistance ranging from budgeting and cooking instructions to employment readiness and job training.

In addition, Ohana Ola relies on grants and other financial assistance to operate its program. Rental and utility assistance are supplied through the Emergency Food and Shelter Grant. The program also receives CDBG funds.

Since Ohana Ola began operating, the majority of the 145 families receiving assistance have not returned. Many are able to maintain sobriety, employment and family stability. The percentage of successful closures of child protective cases is high and the court system has even come to Ohana Ola to close several cases on site—something which it has not done for any other program.

Several clients have earned their high school diplomas. Once residents leave Ohana Ola, they are empowered and armed with the tools necessary for self-sufficiency.

Contact: Helen Kimball, Phone: (808) 696-4039
Tracking Number: 3289
Winning Category: Geographic


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Content Archived: April 20, 2011

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