Waianae’s Ka Paʻalana houseless program to face crippling budget cuts

First-Hand Report
Barb Forsyth

WAIANAE—The Partners in Development (PID) Foundation’s Ka Paʻalana program is one of many facing grave cuts from the State budget. Ka Paʻalana is well known as a family literacy program, but it in fact provides a broad range of support services to hundreds of houseless families on the Leeward coast.

Last year, volunteers distributed 46,000 pounds of food and helped approximately 2,500 people with goods and services. Ka Pap’alana also furnishes toiletries, dental supplies, and assistance with the transition from beach camps into shelters or temporary houses. Their preschool component services between 600 to 1,000 children per year.

Ka Paʻalana grew out of another PID Foundation program known as Tutu and Me, a traveling preschool run in cooperation with churches and other community organizations that aim to meet the developmental needs of under-served Hawaiian and part-Hawaiian populations. The work of Tutu and Me soon revealed the importance of education and literacy programs that could empower the family to help themselves.

In that spirit, Ka Paʻalana family education services are as geared toward adults as well as children, including goal-setting and budgeting, vocational training, GED preparation, job placement, and parenting resources.  The goal is to help these people reach a life of sustainability, or as program director Danny Goya puts it: to provide “hands to pull themselves up instead of hand outs.”

Goya explained that Ka Pap’alana is well-respected within the Waianae community at large, who have seen the value of the work of volunteers and appreciate the support the program has for local businesses such as Tamura’s, Foodland, and City Mill when supplying its members with goods.

Ka Paʻalana has also recently prepared over 100 children for elementary school. Teachers in the area have given the program good feedback; they can clearly tell which children went through one of their programs, Goya said.

The State budget shows that $1.4 million is the amount slated to be cut from the PID Foundation, which represents approximately half of their total operation budget, and the entirety of their funding from the Department of Human Services (DHS). Other current sources of financing besides the State include the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Kamehameha Schools, and the Administration for Native Americans. 

Slashing the organization’s budget by half will have wide reaching and potentially devastating consequences, Goya said. He emphasized that although the preschool component of their program is important, it is really just one piece toward transforming the lives of houseless families. He explained that “it is easy to gravitate” toward programs aimed at kids, but that the real change comes when the needs of the entire family are addressed.

If the full $1.4 million is cut, two Leeward shelters and one public housing site will lose all of their services.

One problem that may have made PID Foundation vulnerable to the budget cuts has to do with the way they are classified. PID Foundation’s family literacy program is currently contracted under their Tutu and Me Traveling Preschool, which is considered a level 3/4 priority. In reality, the scope of services provided is more accurately a level 1/2, as they provide direct cash, job training, and food. 

If the full $1.4 million is cut, two Leeward shelters and one public housing site will lose all of their services. There would also be a reduction in outreach services at their other shelters and sites, as about 20 to 30 staff members would be cut—about half of their current workforce.  Although it is hard to pinpoint the exact numbers of people because of realities such as high participant turnover, it is safe to say that hundreds of youth and adults will be adversely affected by these cuts.

If parents don’t have access to these programs, then “the life for [these] families will take a tremendous hit,” Goya said.

There are two shreds of hope for PID. One is Senate Bill 935, which would reallocate rainy day funds toward DHS , and has already passed through the senate. But since DHS funds so many vital programs state wide,  PID could realistically expect to only get a small share of this pie.  Best case scenario is they’d have enough money to operate for one more year.

To see Senate Bill 935, click here

Another glimmer of hope is the new administration for DHS. Goya hopes that they will update the State contract to reflect the reality of what they actually do—changing them from a 3/4 into a 1/2 rating.

One needs only to look at the program’s staff to see the progress PID has made. Five of Ka Paʻalana current staff were previously program participants that thrived under their services.  They set educational goals for themselves, became trained as preschool teachers, and are now giving back to the program. Let’s hope that in light of our increasing houseless population that the program finds a way to continue to thrive.

For more information about Ka Paʻalana, visit pidfoundation.org.