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Outside the spotlight, community reaches out to help our homeless neighbors

By Marc Alexander

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 04:14 p.m. HST, May 19, 2011



There is no quick fix to homelessness. Government agencies, community members and service providers have been doing admirable work to assist those who are homeless for many years.

With the governor's homeless initiative, these efforts are being further coordinated and augmented. In just a few months, evidence of a New Day in reaching out to our neighbors who are homeless is abundant, demonstrating that people care and want to work together creatively and without fanfare.

Consider the following examples:

» Through joint efforts involving state, city, service providers and community groups, some 25 people were provided shelter and services in the Kakaako area while making the area fully available to the public. People who didn't have hope before now do and the locale continues to be clean and accessible to all.

» A new community outreach program initiated by the Honolulu Police Department, with the support of local leaders and working with service providers, is helping those who are homeless at the Next Step shelter, keep that community and surroundings safer and assisting in reaching out to others in need of services.

» Some 15 people who were previously unemployed and homeless are now gainfully employed in a new workforce development program through the joint efforts of government agencies and service providers, based at the Next Step homeless shelter. This program has already inspired a number of other chronically homeless people to come forward and seek shelter and the opportunity to work. Additional new work opportunities are being developed.

» The new homeless hotline and email system, utilizing existing services and technology, has increased the level of coordination among the various service providers, enabling us to reach out to the wider community in making sure we know who needs help.

Data is now being tracked at the state level and we are more confident that we know who the homeless are and the help they need. Moreover, the hotline is a means to engage and empower the community to get involved.

» The homeless hotline and email system has enabled service providers to reach out and assist dozens of people with medical and food services, and to prepare several for shelter and housing opportunities.

In one case, when an outreach team responded to a hotline call, it found an unresponsive person who was in need of emergency assistance. In another case, the hotline identified someone previously unknown and in a very isolated location, on private property.

This person is now receiving case-management services that will lead to housing options. The excellent public response to the hotline has indicated that people overwhelmingly care about their neighbors who are homeless and want to help them.

» The recent outreach to those who are homeless near Aala Park resulted in five people receiving permanent housing and many more receiving services and the opportunity to be sheltered.

» There is an unprecedented level of cooperation between the state, the counties, community groups and service providers. One of the visible results of this will be the soon-to-be released 90-day plan. Another encouraging development is the ongoing negotiations for a joint housing project with support services for the homeless, the result of public-private collaboration.

To be part of the solution means telling the story, especially when it's good news. And as these examples demonstrate, there is already much good news to be shared. Yet, these actions and the 90-day plan are just the beginning steps in the long journey to end homelessness. Together in compassion, we shall do exactly that — step by step, person by person.






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