Students, staff volunteer to help The Institute for Human Services
Not to be confused with Service Learning Day, Servant Leadership Day only happens once a year in January to coincide with Founders’ Week. In the half century since its introduction, Robert Greenleaf’s “Servant Leadership” theory has become increasingly popular among American corporations. Companies such as Nordstrom, Starbucks, The Container Store and FedEx have all adopted the theory that a leader must be a servant first and a leader second. This was indeed the case when Chaminade University’s Mitch Steffey joined students and fellow staff members in an effort to help The Institute for Human Services (IHS).
“We’re learning just as much from the community as we are giving to it,” says Steffey, Associate Director
of Service Learning and Community Engagement. “The idea is you’re leading for the people to accomplish their goals and not ours. It’s also talking about the difference between sympathy and empathy.”
Silversword senior, Montserrat Lanfranco ’23, was among the volunteers who helped haul away old furniture, appliances and miscellaneous equipment in a Herculean effort to organize a large storage area at IHS. To Steffey’s point about empathy, Lanfranco muses that “everyone has a different situation as to why they’re homeless.”
During an on-camera interview with KGMB’s Hawaii News Now, Montserrat says by helping IHS—and thus, in essence, its clients—they’re digging into the roots of houselessness and helping a marginalized population of society plant new roots to promote a healthier type of system.
“At least that’s how I see it,” Montserrat concludes. “I feel like if we can get down to it (the root of the cause) then we can really solve the problem.”
Across the nation, homelessness has become a major flash point, attracting the attention and the ire of local, state and national lawmakers. On Dec. 19, 2022, the Biden-Harris administration released a federal plan for ending homelessness in America that starts with the ambitious goal of reducing homelessness by 25 percent by 2025. All In: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness builds on the success of previous plans and will do more than any previous federal effort to systemically prevent homelessness, and combat the systemic racism that has created racial and ethnic disparities in homelessness.
Modeled after the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, The Hawai‘i Interagency Council on Homelessness (HICH) is an advisory body that serves as a statewide homelessness planning and policy development entity with broad representation from State and County government and the community. The council has adopted its own 10-year plan that utilizes an active implementation framework with the work divided into four general stages for implementation: exploration, installation, initial implementation and full implementation.
According to the released Ten-Year Strategic Plan and Framework, the proposal advances the vision of ending homelessness in Hawai‘i by implementing and sustaining a housing-focused system that draws upon the efforts of multiple partners and creates a clear pathway to stable housing for individuals and families experiencing homelessness. The plan and vision acknowledge that the work to combat homelessness cannot be addressed by any single government entity or provider alone, and requires a shared community effort and “all-hands-on-deck” approach.
Steffey shares the same approach when he organizes these types of service events, which he hopes will become more frequent. “What we did at the IHS shelter is the community engagement part of my job,” says the Pennsylvania native, emphasizing the second half of his official staff title. “I’m trying to get students out of their residence halls, out of their homes and into the community.”
Steffey distinguishes the difference between community service and learning service. Citing an example of the latter, he uses a biology student who could go out in the lo’i kalo (taro patch) to test the waters to see why one part of the patch produces more kalo than another.
“He/she can test if there’s too much acid in the water,” Steffey explains. “So we’re going to the community to fulfill a need with the expertise that we already have through our professors, courses and classrooms.
“You don’t have that at beach cleanup,” Steffey continues. “The cleanup is good for the community, but there isn’t much learning being done.”