Catholic Charities Hawaii iconCatholic Charities Hawai‘i is touching thousands of lives in the Islands by finding solutions for the state’s most pressing social problems.

Its top priorities mirror the social issues that continue to make headlines, among them homelessness, adult violence and abuse, child abuse and neglect, unplanned pregnancies, immigrants struggling to adjust to new lives, Hawaii’s rapidly aging population, and persons with developmental disabilities.

With more than $27 million in funding sources this year, CCH is Hawai‘i’s sixth-largest nonprofit service provider, according to Pacific Business News’ 2017-2018 Book of Lists. Government grants and contributions account for 95 percent of its funding. Its approximately 300 employees are responsible for more than 30 different programs.

Terry Walsh recognized the complexity of the organization, and the problems it deals with, when he joined CCH about a year and a half ago as its president and CEO, replacing Jerry Rauckhorst, who retired.

“It took me a year to know what I didn’t know,” Walsh says. “Now it feels like home. I couldn’t have written a better script.”

Although Catholic Charities Hawai‘i’s stated mission is “rooted in the gospel of Jesus” and “exists to carry out the social mission of the Church,” it serves “the people of Hawai‘i regardless of their faith or culture.”

“We don’t serve people because they’re Catholic,” Walsh says. “We serve them because we’re Catholic.”

Walsh says Hawai‘i’s homeless crisis came as no surprise to CCH staffers. They saw it coming years ago and now dedicate about 40 percent of their time and resources to it.

Also of no surprise is the state’s next big crisis, if it is not addressed: caring for a rapidly aging population. The U.S. Census reported that approximately one in six Hawaii residents were 65 or older in 2016, and the numbers are rising rapidly as more members of the Baby Boomer generation, born between 1946 and 1964, reach retirement age. These growing numbers are creating more challenges in areas such as health care and affordable housing.

Here are two of the ways Catholic Charities Hawai‘i is addressing homelessness and the aging population:

Family Assessment Center

The state awarded CCH a $1.2 million contract in the Fall of 2016 to manage the new Family Assessment Center, a temporary housing facility near Downtown Honolulu designed to move homeless families into permanent housing within three months.

The emphasis is on temporary, permanent and quickly. Families are given shelter for up to 90 days while case workers match their needs with available housing. Walsh says the program has moved more than 50 families into permanent housing and has had a 90 percent success rate, compared with an initial goal of 80 percent.

Meheula Vista

A key part of CCH’s mission is addressing challenges before they become crises. Mehuela Vista in Mililani Mauka is an example.

The housing facility for senior citizens is being developed in four phases by the Catholic Charities Housing Development Corp., a CCH subsidiary. The one-bedroom rental units are available to senior citizens earning 60 percent or less of Honolulu’s median household income, which the Census said was approximately $77,000 in 2016. The 75 units in Phase One are occupied and work has begun on Phase Two. The complex will have 300 units at full buildout.

Meheula Vista is not assisted living. However, CCH offers services such as healthy-aging programs, transportation to and from appointments, and help with navigating the complex bureaucracies that older residents face.

It’s another step forward in helping Hawai‘i’s elderly age in place by combining social services with affordable housing in an independent environment.

In this monthly feature, former newspaper editor and columnist Jim George visits with organizations that make up Hawaii’s not-for-profit community. He can be reached at

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