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 Polynesiansa 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
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 Olas 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
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 sitesomething
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