by IHS Executive Director Connie Mitchell
The resilience of our guests constantly amazes me as they journey to end their homelessness. The stars are really the keiki, who greet IHS staff with smiles, and call out to staff in the hallway: “Hi aunty!” and “Hi uncle!"
Many people think of mentally ill adults when they think of homelessness, but the majority of those who are homeless are a part of a family. About half of all homeless keiki are 5 years-old and younger. While you may not see them on the streets, they grace the halls of our shelter all the time. The infants sleeping in cribs in our guest rooms are living proof.
The families that we serve lose housing for many reasons. A layoff, an injury/illness with resulting medical bills, an unexpected family death, or just a raise in rent can leave a family living on the streets or in a car, struggling to put their lives back together. This disruption to life's routine affects children in many ways. Lack of a stable home means daily living is a challenge; waking up for school, having a shower, preparing a meal, completing homework or even getting a good night’s sleep are all uncertainties. These disrupted activities mean missed opportunities to develop self-discipline and a healthy way of life. When the basics are absent, dreaming about the future is curtailed.
From the day a family arrives at our doors to seek emergency shelter to months after their stay, IHS works to restore structure and stability to family life. We move families into housing as quickly as possible, and make every effort to equip them with skills, surround them with support, and create opportunities that prevent them from experiencing homelessness again. IHS customizes service planning in order to meet a family’s goals for a brighter future. We also foster hope and confidence for each member of the family, both children and adults, and offer opportunities to learn competencies that lead to financial stability, employment, healthcare, healthy child development, and so much more. The goal is to create a strong foundation upon which a family unit can be rebuilt.
Finally, our Children’s Program is a key to ending the cycle of homelessness, because a homeless child is three times more likely to experience homelessness as an adult. By providing an environment that is safe, nurturing, and comfortable we are able to help children break that cycle by staying healthy, gaining confidence, developing a strong work ethic, and exploring the world around them for future success. We work alongside parents to understand how to best nurture their children with gentle guidance and structure, instilling values that lead to engaged citizenship in our community.
I want to thank you, our IHS ohana, for your partnership in our work to address the impacts of family homelessness in our community.
Mahalo for investing in our work by volunteering and giving, and for continuing to believe that change is possible. Please know that your investment in our Family Program is an investment in Hawaii’s future.