When people move into one of the eight CSS Safe Spot camps, they are also moving into a CSS culture with a community of support staff whose goal is to help them create a better future.
Setting life-improvement goals and identifying steps to meet them is an important part of the social support program.
Kai Batalona is one of three “service navigators,” who work with residents to help them identify options for moving forward in their lives. He took the position in January and is becoming well acquainted with the variety of opportunities for assistance in Eugene, Springfield, and Lane County. The other service navigators are Marie Laura Roehrich and Suzi Wilkins.
“When I first meet with someone, the first thing I tell them is I want them to move on to a better situation,” Kai says. “This program is basically a short-term opportunity to help them get back on their feet, and I want them to make the best of it.”
A service navigator is similar to a case manager. The job involves meeting with residents, helping them to identify personal strengths to overcome challenges in their lives and to seek out opportunities for housing and whatever else would help them move forward and become successful.
Kai shares information with residents about local resources from a spreadsheet of agency names and contacts. The list is growing and includes local housing referrals, addiction treatment programs, mental health counselling, and more.
Hawaii is Kai’s native home. He moved to Portland in 2013 and to Eugene last year. He started with CSS as a resident at the Vet’s Safe Spot camp. We recognized his strong skill set and friendly ‘laid back’ attitude towards everyone and offered him a paid position with the CSS Service Team. He then moved to the Reboot Station on W. 11th, where several other CSS service staff members live & now he has just moved into his own apartment.
“I’m very thankful to CSS for everything they’ve done for me,” he said. “I’m so blessed to be here.”
Kai comes to CSS with a wealth of experiences and background in working with people experiencing homelessness. Having served 16 years in the Hawaii Army National Guard, he has particular expertise in working with veterans. He understands the ins and outs of working with the Veterans Administration and looks for ways to help veterans receive any and all benefits to which they’re entitled, including GI benefits.
While living in Portland, Kai worked at Do Good Multnomah, a great organization that helps veterans and veteran households with low-barrier, year-round emergency shelter, transitional housing, and outreach. He also worked in student financial aid for over 25 years, including stints at the University of Hawaii and Portland State.
“I really love this organization and working at CSS,” he says. “And I’m very happy to be a part of this great team.”
“Kai really brings a lot of life and work experiences to our organization,” says CSS Operations Director Erik de Buhr. “We’re really happy to have him as a member of our growing social service support staff.”