President’s Message: 2017 – The Year of Looking in the Mirror

Aloha Everyone,

Looking back at 2016, it was filled with opportunities and challenges, successes and missteps, but we did many things of which I am proud. We helped:

  • The chronically homeless find housing, provided support that enabled them to stay housed and offered services to help them begin stabilizing their lives;
  • Immigrants with language barriers access critical healthcare, social services, education and legal supports;
  • Families on the brink of homelessness keep their homes and learn how to avoid recurring emergencies that threatened their financial strength;
  • Adults struggling with mental illness and/or addiction improve the quality of their lives through treatment, medications, housing, basic living necessities, stabilizing goal setting, access to basic medical care and opportunities for income and employment;
  • Mentally ill adults who were unable to manage their own Social Security, Disability or VA benefits by overseeing those benefits for them and ensuring that their housing, general expenses and personal allowances were covered while exercising good financial management for savings;
  • The elderly, disabled, poor and homeless access stabilizing SNAP benefits, which enabled them to direct their limited household income to other essential needs;
  • Low-income and homeless children go to school with basic school supplies and replenished those supplies throughout the year; and
  • Struggling households have a brighter holiday by filling basic wish lists to inspire them as they moved into the new year.

While working toward these achievements, we also pursued new ways to learn and grow from those around us. We engaged in community discussions around a number of critical issues facing our State, including:

  • Homelessness;
  • Language access;
  • Rentals for individuals and families earning from below 30% to 120% of the Area Median Income (AMI);
  • Initiatives that may help the C&C of Honolulu become a more age-friendly city;
  • Mental health services and the system of care;
  • Services and supports for those struggling with addiction;
  • Improving coordination between service providers, law enforcement, healthcare professionals, attorneys and others;
  • Opportunities for individuals recovering from mental illness issues and/or addiction to share their experiences and provide peer support to others;
  • Improving the relationships between landlords, attorneys, at-risk tenants and service providers to reduce the number of evictions that can lead to extended bouts of homelessness;
  • Support for families of the severely mentally ill;
  • Improving the working relationship between funders (Government and private) and providers of service to create better results, rather than impediments, for the people we serve; and
  • Increasing collaboration and improving the way that service providers work together to address the critical community issues with which we are faced.

However, last year was not easy and we struggled with many things along the way, including filling staff vacancies and budgetary challenges. But, through all of those trials, we continued to provide quality services and supports to our clients with an open mind and heart.

We were open to constructive critique without getting defensive and blaming others. We used this feedback to improve ourselves by taking a hard look at our programs and services to see whether we were meeting two different bottom lines:

  • Programmatic: Is the program making a difference in the community? Is it needed? Are we able to do it and do it well?
  • Financial: Is the program sustainable in the future without 100 percent reliance on one source of funding?

Those critical discussions and analyses have led to some hard decisions and helped us to improve. We are not perfect. We make mistakes. And, sometimes we make bad decisions. But, as an agency, we are open to feedback, humble and continue to work at improving ourselves and being better for the community.

I am reminded of the lyrics to Michael Jackson’s Man In The Mirror:

As I turn up the collar on my favorite winter coat
This wind is blowin’ my mind
I see the kids in the street, with not enough to eat
Who am I, to be blind? Pretending not to see their needs

A summer’s disregard, a broken bottle top
And a one man’s soul
They follow each other on the wind ya’ know
‘Cause they got nowhere to go
That’s why I want you to know

I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change      

I’ve been a victim of a selfish kind of love
It’s time that I realize
That there are some with no home, not a nickel to loan
Could it be really me, pretending that they’re not alone?

A willow deeply scarred, somebody’s broken heart
And a washed-out dream
They follow the patter on the wind, ya’ see
‘Cause they got no place to be
That’s why I’m starting with me

My hope for 2017 is that we continue to operate with our core values intact; take risks and be open to failure when trying innovative approaches to age-old challenges; learn from our mistakes and the critiques we receive; and continue to engage in community discussions to encourage others (government, private sector, nonprofits and the general public) to look in the mirror and see how we can all do and be better for Hawaii.

Happy New Year!

Jan M. Harada
President and CEO
Helping Hands Hawaii

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