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Assistant Program Coordinator Practices Nonjudgement to best serve her young clients 

When young people enter the Hale Kipa Emergency Shelter Services program, case managers sometimes receive a large amount of information about their history and past behaviors and sometimes receive very little. Regardless of what is known about their background, one of the most important things to remember when serving these children and teens is to withhold judgment, according to Annie Tuiolemotu, the assistant program coordinator for Hale Kipa’s Emergency Shelter Services. 

“You don’t ever want to prejudge when you go into your first encounter with them,” said Tuilemotu.  

Youth often come to the shelter feeling as though they don’t have a voice. This is something that Tuiolemotu and her colleagues strive to change. 

“We spend time talking with them and finding out what their wants and needs are and that’s what we go to bat for,” she said. 

Currently, Hale Kipa’s Girls Emergency Shelter houses eight young women, ages  12-17, and the Boys Emergency Shelter houses eight young men. Twenty-three people staff the two locations. The team takes a very collaborative approach with about five to 10 counselors involved in helping each youth. 

The shelter provides youth with 24-hour support; individual, group, and family support; educational programs; coordination with schools and service providers; a structured living environment; nutritious meals; skill-building activities;; and recreational outings. 

Tuiolemotu plans and organizes the skill-building sessions and the stimulating educational and recreational outings.  Recent skill-building classes focused on how to format a “snail mail” letter and how to budget. Instructional sessions about emotional intelligence teach the youth concepts such as how to let go of things they can’t control. Some of the engaging outings have included a trip to a Hawaiian Electric power plant, a visit to the Bishop Museum, and bowling.

The emergency shelters work in close cooperation with Kamala Homes, a Hale Kipa program that includes emergency foster homes. Younger program participants are often placed in Kamala Homes if the caseworkers determine they’d be better served in a home environment. In those cases, the caseworkers continue to provide support. 

Tuiolemotu received a Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a Master’s Degree in criminal justice administration from Chaminade University. She has worked for Hale Kipa for 12 years and the emergency shelter since 2012. 

What she loves about her work is the opportunity to have a positive impact on youth early in their lives. 

“It’s very rewarding to see their growth,” she said. 

Tuiolemotu grew up in American Samoa and Hawaii. She lives in Pearl City and spends most of her free time with her close-knit family.