Our November Speaker was Connie Mitchell, Executive Director at the Institute for Human Services (IHS). IHS is the oldest, largest and most comprehensive human services agency focused exclusively on ending and preventing homelessness in Hawaii. Born and raised in Hawaii, Connie earned a BS and MSN in Nursing from UH. Her diverse career included financial planning, pastoral work, teaching mental health nursing at UH and healthcare management. In discussing her background, Connie shared that in 4th grade she was told she was “bossy” and should quiet down. Fortunately, she did not and has used this as a strength to advocate for the homeless.
Connie says she believes it is possible to end homelessness. It is a very complex problem, but can be solved if we are all in this together and willing to help. The reasons for homelessness are varied: eviction, job loss, health issues, addiction, domestic violence, incarceration, etc. The quicker the homeless can find housing, the quicker they recover. There is not one solution that will fit all. She described some of the programs that are working such as Housing ASAP through the Hawaii Community Foundation and Kahauiki Village a public/private partnership headed by Duane Kurisu.
Connie shared some terms with us:
-- Chronic Homelessness - is defined by more than 1 year straight of homelessness or more than 4 times homeless in a 3-year period
-- Functional Zero - which means ending homelessness quickly for individuals and families, but does not necessarily mean no homelessness.The good news is Family Homelessness is on the decline. The goal is to end family homelessness by December 2018.
-- Goldilocks Philosophy – defined as providing the right amount of support to cultivate and ensure sustained self-sufficiency so that families and individuals can avoid homelessness again.
Connie sees the solution as a coordinated systems approach including: coordinated entry, planning, collecting and examining local data and performance measurement and evaluation. Today she sees lots of redundancy and feels there needs to be one database that is used by all services agencies to better share information.
One of the final slides Connie shared included a picture of Wonder Woman which is fitting for her. On the slide were the leadership lessons she has learned as a woman fighting homelessness:
-- Take BOLD action
-- Advocate for those who can’t
-- Call people to common values
-- Fear less about what other people think
-- Let love guide you