Hawaii Delegation Visits Houston to Learn from “Exemplary” Homeless Response System

Jun 12, 2017  |  at 9:12 am  |  by sbrown

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Hawaii delegation visits a New Hope Housing property during their visit to Houston.

On May 16 and 17, a delegation from Hawaii visited Houston to meet with the Coalition for the Homeless and other partners of The Way Home to learn more about effective leadership strategies in the effort to solve homelessness.

Last year Hawaii declared a state of emergency around homelessness according to the National Governors Association (NGA), which has been providing Technical Assistance to Hawaii. Although that status has been lifted, the state is still working to revamp its homeless response system.

The group from Hawaii included Marc Alexander (City and County of Honolulu, Office of Housing), Brandee Menino (Hope Services Hawaii, Inc.), Scott Morishige (office of the Governor, Hawaii), and Natalie Okeson (Phocused). Flora Arabo and Akeiisa Coleman, Senior Policy Analysts with the NGA also traveled with the delegation. When the group was asked about what they hoped to learn, Brandee Menino (CEO, Hope Services Hawaii) shared that she wanted to learn more from the Coalition about governance, sustainability, and a better way to build capacity for the homeless service providers in Hawaii.

The Coalition for the Homeless serves as lead agency for The Way Home, the collaborative model to rpevent and end homelessness in Houston, Pasadena, Conroe; and Harris, Fort Bend, and Montgomery Counties. Comprising more than 100 partners from the nonprofit, government, and private sectors, The Way Home is leading the nation in reducing homelessness through a Housing First approach: placing homeless individuals and families into permanent housing as quickly as possible and then providing them with the supportive services they need to remain stably housed.

The Coalition provides leadership to The Way Home by providing staffing for workgroup and other committee meetings, working on coordination and implementation of programs and services, acting as the collaborative applicant for the annual Continuum of Care (CoC) funding process, and by facilitating trainings, education, and Technical Assistance for direct service providers so they can increase their capacity and serve more homeless individuals in the most effective way possible.

In the Houston area, The Way Home is the local CoC. Throughout the United States, CoCs are often regional and centered around major metropolitan areas. Rural areas of each state are consolidated into what are known as “Balance of State CoCs.” The state of Hawaii has to CoCs: Partners in Care, which is the alliance leading Oahu’s CoC; and Bridging the Gap, which provides leadership to the rural counties and small islands.

On the first afternoon of the trip, the group toured two local Permanent Supportive Housing sites: New Hope Housing‘s Canal Street Apartments, and The Women’s Home‘s Adele and Ber Piper Family Place. While there, the group learned more about what goes into running a successful housing program Staff from both organizations shared information on a broad range of topics, from the planning and building process to daily operations and supporting success in permanent housing.

The second day focused on panel discussions with Coalition staff, members of The Way Home’s Steering Committee, and partner organizations including: City of Houston Housing and Community Development Department, CSH, Harris County Community Services Department, and more.

NGA, which funded this trip as part of their Technical Assistance, shared, “Houston is considered a model homeless response system across the country; with strong data systems and governance, as well as systems that spend dollars as effectively as possible. The NGA funded this trip to Houston so key team members from Hawaii could meet their Houston counterparts and get a hands-on look at how to operate an exemplary Continuum of Care.”

The work that the Coalition for the Homeless has led and worked on with more than 100 local partners has been incredibly successful. Sharing best practices with other regions like Hawaii can help solve homelessness not just locally but across the country – which is the ultimate goal.