CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Thelma Wong, front, takes part in exercise led by Pei Ying, a Luk Tung Kuen Hawaii instructor, at the Lanakila Multi-Purpose Senior Center, a Catholic Charities program. CLICK FOR LARGE
Social safety net spans greatest need
For 60 years Catholic Charities has helped lift people from poverty
SIXTY YEARS ago, Catholic Charities Hawaii was formed to help children and families affected by World War II.
The organization now stretches deeply into the neediest corners of the state, offering "not a handout, but a hand up," says CEO Jerry Rauckhorst.
It has added the homeless, the disabled, seniors, troubled youths and victims of child and domestic abuse to the people considered most "at risk," he said.
Catholic Charities, originally known as the Catholic Social Services, helps without regard to faith or culture. Rauckhorst said the organization is different from other charitable agencies because of its "more holistic, integrated kind of approach" to meet the multiple needs of a family.
It was during the 1960s that the agency shifted its emphasis from foster care placement to preventive family counseling. In later decades its services expanded to meet more needs.
With more than 30 programs on Oahu, Maui, Kauai and the Big Island, 27,219 people received assistance in 2005, the most recent statistics available. Eighty percent of Catholic Charities' funding comes from federal and state contracts, and it is one of the top recipients of revenue from the Aloha United Way, Rauckhorst said.
"We're a $23 million organization ... but we could use twice as much," he said.
The homeless and destitute take up the most staffing and finances, he added.
Robert Lorin, a housing/intake and referral specialist, has been on the front line for five years, loving a job that makes him cry at times. He has seen the number of homeless coming through his door triple in the past few years.
Of the 10 people he sees on an average day, he is able to help four or five with a down payment on a home or first month's rent. The funds are specifically meant to place people in homes who face sudden eviction, rather than the chronic homeless, he said.
"When I tell them, 'Sorry, I don't have money for you,' they cry, and I cry with them sometimes. It hurts but I love my job. ... When I see (someone I did help) on the road later and they say, 'Thank you for helping us,' that keeps me going," Lorin said.
"I always tell them, 'If you don't find anything, come back.' At least I can make a phone call to see if there's anything at all the state can do."
Rauckhorst said Catholic Charities' rate of success is high because many of its programs are intensive, long term and well structured to ensure their effectiveness.
"We're not a quick-fix agency ... (where) at the end of the week, the problem is fixed. We work with families for a good 12 months ... which is very, very effective," he said.
Every agency has its own niche, even if all help the same population -- the homeless, for example. CCH specializes in providing transitional housing for families with children while helping them find gainful employment, teaching them to stick to a budget and doing whatever it takes to "get beyond dependency," Rauckhorst said.
Whatever the program, there must be "a glimmer of hope, some desire for the individual or family to do something to better their situation" that can be turned into motivation for them to take the necessary steps toward progress.
He added, "We don't make judgments. ... We try to make them feel they still have worth. If they have self-worth, dignity, a sense of responsibility, only then can they make changes in their life."
Darlene Beaty, who is in charge of family programs, said the staff "really cares about our clients," and "we live (CCH's) core values. They're not just something posted on the wall."
Help for all stages and ages
Catholic Charities Hawaii offers services that address the following social and behavioral areas of need:
CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT
» Ka Malama Punua, a Healthy Start and Early Identification program, provides assessments, intervention and child development services from birth to 3 years old.
» Hale Malama offers therapeutic foster care for medically fragile infants and toddlers.
» Therapeutic Services provides counseling for child sex abuse and domestic violence victims and perpetrators, plus school-based counseling.
» Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children does home studies and case management to ensure safe reunification with parents or into foster, adoptive or relative care.
» Comprehensive Counseling and Support Services offers parenting skill development, supervised parental visits with abused or neglected children in foster care, outreach services and group parenting classes.
» Ma'ili Land Transitional Housing Program (Oahu) and Kawaihae Transitional Housing Program (Big Island) helps families with children obtain affordable permanent housing through case management, employment training, budgeting and education classes.
» Housing Placement Program assists with rent and utility payments and emergency finances.
» Community Assistance Program is emergency basic needs assistance with past-due housing and utility payments, food and clothing on Kauai.
CHILDREN'S EMOTIONAL AND BEHAVIORAL PROBLEMS
» Na Ohana Pulama group and foster homes target emotionally and behaviorally challenged youths.
» Oahu Providers Group offers school-based counseling for special-education, behavioral and mental health needs.
» Mary Jane Adoption Services, Community Pregnancy Services, Host Homes/Home
» Try Wait! Abstinence Education Program offers a curriculum on sexual abstinence, making choices and setting boundaries.
ADULT VIOLENCE AND ABUSE
» Ho'ola Pono Domestic Violence Program
IMMIGRANTS AND REFUGEES
» General Immigration Services help immigrants learn English and apply for naturalization and citizenship.
» Employment Core Services offers employment training and job placement.
» Intake, Information and Referral Unit, HELP LINE 521-4357, makes referrals to CCH and other programs, and assists with clothing, food, bus passes, hygiene items, housing, information, community resources and/or finances.
INDEPENDENCE FOR SENIORS AND PERSONS WITH DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES
» Case management, advocacy, professional and bereavement counseling is provided through nine Oahu senior housing projects and two parishes.
» Comprehensive Individualized Services are housekeeping, shopping, escort, translation, letter reading/writing and paraprofessional counseling assistance.
» Respite Services provide relief from caregiving responsibilities.
» Housing Assistance Program handles eviction prevention and placement in affordable housing on Oahu.
» Lanakila Multi-Purpose Senior Center offers educational, recreational and social activities.
» Money Management Assistance and Financial Advocacy Services
» Quality Living Choices operates foster homes on the Big Island for long-term care.
» Transportation Services are provided to doctor appointments, shopping and group dining sites.
» Developmentally Disabled Waiver Services offer personal care, skilled nursing, respite services and nursing supervision.