She’s a Coast Guard veteran, a single mom with three kids — and she’s homeless. But as the holiday season approaches, Crystal L. says she has hope for the future, thanks to the help she’s received from the state’s new Family Assessment Center (FAC) in Kaka‘ako and her own determination.
The FAC, which opened in September and is managed by Catholic Charities Hawai‘i staff, is a one-stop assessment center and short-term shelter for homeless families. Its goal is to move families into permanent housing more quickly using a “Housing First” approach. In fact, the first family who came to the center was housed in 21 days and more families are transitioning to immediate housing.
Crystal says she turned to the FAC to escape an abusive relationship, with plans to make a new life. But she soon found out she couldn’t make ends meet with her savings and her Veterans Administration (VA) benefits. She also deals with PTSD and says of her family, “We had a stable life once. I’m trying to get back to what that feels like.”
Adrian Contreras, FAC’s program director, credits Crystal’s motivation for working with the center’s staff to get medical coverage and official documents, enroll her two oldest children in school and work with the VA to find housing. However, Crystal says it was the FAC’s hands-on, step-by-step approach in helping families navigate bureaucracies that has made all the difference.
“This program is smaller and close knit, rather than being in a shelter with 300 people,” says Crystal. “We feel safer here, and the staff helps us get the information we need.” Contreras says the goal is to make sure each family is in a good position to make it on their own once they leave the FAC. “We make a heavy investment in time and attention up front to help with multiple needs and connect them to services. Hopefully, we’ve set things in motion for them to succeed.”