BE­HIND THE WHEEL

NON­PROF­ITS IN HAWAI‘I RE­MAIN THE LAST, BEST HOPE FOR AN EQ­UI­TABLE SO­CI­ETY, PRO­VID­ING A COM­MU­NITY OF CARE TO THOSE WHO NEED IT MOST.

FLUX Hawaii - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - TEXT BY SONNY GANADEN | IM­AGES BY JOHN HOOK & COUR­TESY OF THE SAL­VA­TION ARMY

Non­prof­its in Hawai‘i re­main the last, best hope for an eq­ui­table so­ci­ety. Editor-at-large Sonny Ganaden ex­am­ines two or­ga­ni­za­tions pro­vid­ing a com­mu­nity of care to those who need it most.

Most Maui county res­i­dents rec­og­nize Maui Eco­nomic Op­por­tu­nity for its buses, which are eas­ily mis­taken for ho­tel shut­tles, with a pink plume­ria pok­ing out of the cap­i­tal­ized “O” of its acro­nym, MEO. The is­land’s pub­lic trans­porta­tion sys­tem is a mix of the county’s fixed routes, tourist vans, and hitch­hik­ers shar­ing space in the back of pickup trucks; MEO takes care of the rest: buses for school­child­ren, el­derly, and the dis­abled, who would oth­er­wise be left sans trans­porta­tion. MEO’S buses tra­verse the three is­lands that com­prise Maui County: Maui, Lāna‘i, and Moloka‘i.

A ride with MEO en­tails more than get­ting from point A to point B. MEO has been ahead of the curve on what makes an ac­tual dif­fer­ence in end­ing poverty for decades—a study pub­lished by Har­vard Univer­sity found that the link be­tween trans­porta­tion and so­cial mo­bil­ity is stronger than that of sev­eral other fac­tors like crime, el­e­men­tary school test scores, or the per­cent­age of two-par­ent fam­i­lies in a com­mu­nity. The longer the av­er­age com­mute in a given county, the worse the chances are of low-in­come fam­i­lies mov­ing up the lad­der. Har­vard’s study found that geo­graphic agility is di­rectly cor­re­lated with eco­nomic progress—ac­cess to schools, health­care, and af­ford­able goods all re­quire trans­porta­tion ser­vices. That’s where MEO comes in, pro­vid­ing trans­porta­tion ser­vices to com­mu­ni­ties who need it most, lit­er­ally driven by those who need the sup­port of com­mu­nity most. By law, in­di­vid­u­als with crim­i­nal records must wait three years af­ter their last mis­de­meanor con­vic­tion be­fore ap­ply­ing for a bus driv­ing po­si­tion; five years if they have a felony record. This is not the case with MEO driv­ers. For them, it’s a chance at a ca­reer—and a fresh start.

“Ah yes, trans­porta­tion ser­vices,” says Joe Souki, the speaker of the Hawai‘i House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives for Hawai‘i’s 8th District, which in­cludes part of Maui. Souki was the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of MEO for 16 years, through the for­ma­tive 1970s, and over­saw much of the pro­gram’s ex­pan­sion. “We started with one van we pur­chased for $9,000 dol­lars, and by the time we left, we had 50,” he says. “We also did in­su­la­tion, so­lar wa­ter heaters, nutri­tion pro­grams, false teeth for se­nior cit­i­zens, Meals on Wheels, con­gre­gate meals, men­tal health pro­gram­ing, even Planned Par­ent­hood— one of the first in the state.”

Driv­ing onto the three-acre lot of MEO in Kahu­lui, it’s easy to mis­take the place for a gov­ern­men­tal agency. Past the first com­plex of build­ings, main­te­nance men mow lawns, dis­abled clients queue for the bus, and work­ers with IDS on lan­yards chat with el­derly clients seated on benches. MEO was cre­ated as a pri­vate non­profit com­mu­nity ac­tion agency and was or­ga­nized un­der the Eco­nomic Op­por­tu­nity Act of 1964, which was ini­ti­ated by Pres­i­dent Lyn­don B. John­son. As part of the broader War on Poverty, com­mu­nity ac­tion agen­cies were de­vel­oped across the United States as a sort of political hand up rather than hand out. The rear two-story build­ing hosts the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s five de­part­ments: busi­ness de­vel­op­ment, early child­hood ser­vices, com­mu­nity cen­ters, youth ser­vices, and trans­porta­tion ser­vices. Be­sides the lot in Kahu­lui, MEO owns an 11-acre ma­cadamia nut farm in Waiehu that serves as a job skills fa­cil­ity, as well as park­ing lots to ac­com­mo­date a fleet of more than 80 buses, vans, and cars.

In 2003, faced with in­creas­ingly over­pop­u­lated pris­ons, Maui County com­mis­sioned MEO to study what the ba­sic needs were of those in­di­vid­u­als re­turn­ing to so­ci­ety af­ter in­car­cer­a­tion. Based on its study, MEO ex­tended a

In­stead of ex­ac­er­bat­ing a cul­ture in which ex-of­fend­ers are stig­ma­tized well af­ter he or she has done their time, MEO mixes ev­i­dence-based pro­gram­ming with is­land-style con­nect­ing, fo­cus­ing on the things nec­es­sary to bring an ex-of­fender back into the com­mu­nity.

pro­gram to for­mer in­mates, pro­vid­ing them with the things ad­vo­cates have been re­quest­ing for years, like de­vel­op­ing a county-spe­cific work­book with rec­om­men­da­tions on best prac­tices; set­ting up a work fur­lough pro­gram, which takes ad­van­tage of the con­nec­tions MEO has with lo­cal busi­nesses to cre­ate em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties for for­mer in­mates; and co­or­di­nat­ing with other non­prof­its to pro­vide con­tin­u­ing care. The pro­gram also sup­plies sim­ple yet vi­tal, daily ne­ces­si­ties: “ID, cloth­ing, a few dol­lars to get to the next place, a home for a month,” ex­plains Bishop Pahia, an MEO case­worker with decades of ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing at Maui Com­mu­nity Cor­rec­tional Cen­ter. “Ba­sic stuff keeps peo­ple off the streets.” A ma­jor yet eas­ily sol­u­ble prob­lem for ex-of­fend­ers who are leav­ing in­car­cer­a­tion has been iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, as an ID is nec­es­sary to pro­cure ba­sic ser­vices, jobs, and hous­ing, and helps to keep the heat off when a parolee is stopped by po­lice. A law to pro­vide de­part­ing in­mates with ba­sic doc­u­ments has yet to be passed. In­stead of wait­ing around, MEO got the county to ac­cept en­roll­ment with MEO as a means of meet­ing the re­quire­ments nec­es­sary in or­der for parolees to pro­cure iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. As a re­sult of th­ese cost-ef­fec­tive so­lu­tions, Maui’s re­cidi­vism rates for ex-of­fend­ers is the low­est of all the is­lands.

The ben­e­fits of work pro­grams are felt through­out the com­mu­nity. In­stead of ex­ac­er­bat­ing a cul­ture in which ex-of­fend­ers are stig­ma­tized well af­ter he or she has done his or her time, MEO mixes ev­i­dence-based pro­gram­ming with is­land-style con­nect­ing, fo­cus­ing on the things nec­es­sary to bring an ex-of­fender back into the com­mu­nity. MEO starts its pro­gram­ming with in­mates prior to re­lease, as­sist­ing them with ed­u­ca­tional pro­grams and fi­nan­cial aid forms. Once of­fend­ers are out of jail, MEO driv­ers take them to job in­ter­views, pick them up after­ward, and en­sure they re­turn home with­out in­ci­dent. Many ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the pro­gram have gone on to build suc­cess­ful lives in the com­mu­nity. There are sto­ries of clients who run pho­to­voltaic in­stal­la­tion busi­nesses and as­phalt com­pa­nies, and oth­ers who have worked for decades as MEO groundskeep­ers and bus driv­ers. “The suc­cess sto­ries are the ones you don’t re­mem­ber,” Pahia ex­plains. “They blend back into the com­mu­nity. Mostly be­cause they change the cir­cles, swap out the peo­ple they spend time with.”

In Hawai‘i, as in the rest of the United States, the econ­omy it­self is de­pen­dent on the non­profit sec­tor, par­tic­u­larly the large, decades-old or­ga­ni­za­tions that have pro­vided their ser­vices for gen­er­a­tions. In 2014, non­prof­its con­trib­uted 5.3 per­cent of the na­tion’s en­tire GDP, or roughly $890 bil­lion. In the is­lands, where the global 1 per­cent has in­vested in va­cant prop­er­ties for the last sev­eral decades, non­prof­its have con­tin­ued to pro­vide es­sen­tial ser­vices, largely through grants pro­vided by the fed­eral govern­ment. There are spe­cific pro­grams for chil­dren and new moth­ers, school chil­dren, the el­derly, Na­tive Hawai­ians, spe­cific im­mi­grant pop­u­la­tions, the home­less, those re­turn­ing from in­car­cer­a­tion—all pulling from dis­creet, sep­a­rate funds de­ter­mined by lengthy grant re­quests, com­pet­ing in­ter­ests, and in­ter­val fund­ing time­lines.

In this en­vi­ron­ment, non­prof­its con­tinue to de­velop and en­hance pro­grams with fed­eral and pri­vate funds. Founded in the is­lands in 1894, The Sal­va­tion Army is an­other such ex­am­ple. The head­quar­ters of its Hawai­ian and Pa­cific Is­lands Divi­sion is off Mānoa Road. Its 10-acre plot serves the Hawai­ian Is­lands, Guam, Mi­crone­sia, and the Mar­shall Is­lands. Mānoa Val­ley res­i­dents know the turnoff as the site of the Waioli Tea Room, which closed in De­cem­ber 2014 af­ter decades of ser­vice and was orig­i­nally con­ceived as a skills­de­vel­op­ment site by the or­ga­ni­za­tion. In Hawai‘i, The Sal­va­tion Army in­vests nearly $37 mil­lion an­nu­ally in pro­grams and ser­vices. “We have over 55 years of work­ing with those who have ad­dic­tions in Hawai‘i,” says Ma­jor John Chamness, divi­sional leader for The Sal­va­tion Army Hawai­ian and Pa­cific Is­lands Divi­sion. In a uni­form with a white “S” on a crim­son hexagon on the up­per col­lar of his coat, he ex­plains the global or­ga­ni­za­tional model: “Our re­gional pro­grams must all be self-sus­tain­ing. We do this through de­ter­min­ing the spe­cific needs of places through re­la­tion­ships with lo­cal govern­ment and other ser­vice providers.”

The Sal­va­tion Army is ded­i­cated to help­ing end sys­temic poverty. The in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tion’s Path­way of

“The Sal­va­tion Army does drug treat­ment for in­di­vid­u­als in the fa­cil­ity, and has found that treat­ment pro­grams are more suc­cess­ful than in­car­cer­a­tion on its own. Peo­ple need a friend to walk along­side them through treat­ment pro­grams.”

—Ma­jor John Chamness, divi­sional leader for The Sal­va­tion Army Hawai­ian and Pa­cific Is­lands Divi­sion

Hope pro­gram, de­vel­oped in 2015, is set to be the largest treat­ment pro­gram in the Pa­cific, in­tended to help fam­i­lies break the cy­cle of in­ter­gen­er­a­tional poverty and drug ad­dic­tion by as­sist­ing them in se­cur­ing sta­ble jobs and hous­ing, and in be­com­ing con­tribut­ing mem­bers of the com­mu­nity. What dif­fer­en­ti­ates the pro­gram from oth­ers is its scope: Only large non­prof­its, with vast hold­ings and decades of re­la­tion­ships with lo­cal gov­ern­ments and other or­ga­ni­za­tions, are ca­pa­ble of pro­vid­ing what ser­vice providers call a “con­tin­uum of care,” a com­pre­hen­sive sys­tem that tracks in­di­vid­u­als over a longer pe­riod of time while pro­vid­ing multi-level ser­vices.

“The Sal­va­tion Army does drug treat­ment for in­di­vid­u­als in the fa­cil­ity, and has found that treat­ment pro­grams are more suc­cess­ful than in­car­cer­a­tion on its own,” Chamness ex­plains. “Peo­ple need a friend to walk along­side them through treat­ment pro­grams.” Fo­cus­ing on pro­vid­ing a com­mu­nity of sup­port and ac­count­abil­ity, the Path­way of Hope pro­gram guides, who are sim­i­lar to life coaches, will part­ner with and work along­side in­di­vid­u­als, rather than do the work for them. The wait list for the pro­gram is lengthy. The or­ga­ni­za­tion’s goal is to have 50 fam­i­lies and in­di­vid­u­als par­tic­i­pat­ing in the ini­tia­tive within its first year in 2016. They are also look­ing into de­vel­op­ing clean and sober liv­ing houses, proven to keep many marginally housed in­di­vid­u­als with ad­dic­tions off the streets, and which are nearly non-ex­is­tent on O‘ahu.

So­lu­tions for com­bat­ing in­creased eco­nomic in­equal­ity re­main po­lit­i­cally charged con­ver­sa­tions, made in­fin­itely more com­pli­cated con­sid­er­ing the non­profit sec­tor. As a re­sult of Amer­i­can pol­i­tics, a govern­ment agency is of­ten not the place where the poor re­ceive needed ser­vices. In­stead MEO and The Sal­va­tion Army are the kinds of or­ga­ni­za­tions that fill this need—large, gen­er­a­tional non­prof­its thor­oughly tracked and vet­ted by a com­plex com­pe­ti­tion for gov­ern­men­tal funds. The quasi-gov­ern­men­tal non­profit ar­range­ment is unique to the United States, where a deep-seated tra­di­tion of in­di­vid­u­al­ism and an in­grained hos­til­ity to­ward cen­tral­ized in­sti­tu­tions halt the world­wide move­ment to­ward pre­dom­i­nantly gov­ern­men­tal as­sis­tance to the poor. The ben­e­fits of cit­i­zen­ship of other large, in­dus­tri­al­ized na­tions—in­clud­ing ac­cess to ba­sic health­care, early child­hood and col­lege education, af­ford­able hous­ing, and a crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem that does not rely on mass in­car­cer­a­tion—con­tinue to be de­bated in the United States. But the fact that the his­toric political cri­tiques of ser­vices to the poor—which were preva­lent at the out­set of the cre­ation of MEO and or­ga­ni­za­tions like it in the 1960s—are preva­lent to­day, means that the wheels be­hind large non­govern­men­tal non­prof­its will con­tinue to turn round.

Maui Eco­nomic Op­por­tu­nity has been ahead of the curve on what makes an

ac­tual dif­fer­ence in end­ing poverty for decades.

“I put my­self into a dark, iso­lated world,” says Kea Reeves, a grad­u­ate of The Sal­va­tion Army’s Fam­ily Treat­ment Ser­vices, which pro­vides sub­stance abuse treat­ment for women with chil­dren. Reeves, Chamness says, is a great ex­am­ple of what the Path­way of Hope is about. “They just need

some­one to come along­side them, to be­lieve in them, to pro­vide tools, the friend­ships that they need to re­ally find suc­cess in their lives.”

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