Residents on all major islands are being asked to report homeless people to get them into a network of medical, mental and housing services.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie, Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz and state homeless coordinator Marc Alexander said yesterday that participation by residents will be a key step toward clearing streets of homeless people by getting them help.
"There’s nothing more demoralizing in the community than to see someone obviously in need and not know what to do about it," Abercrombie said. "If you want to send your child to a public library and you’re fearful of being able to do that because the sidewalks are occupied by people outside the library, that leaves the community, the public, feeling helpless, feeling angry, feeling anxious about their capacity to do anything."
People who report homeless people to service providers must give their contact information, detailed description of the person or people, and a time and location when the homeless are usually in the area.
To report a homeless person and get them help, contact these service providers (email preferred):
» Waikiki Health Center’s Care-A-Van Program on Oahu: email@example.com or 791-9359
» HOPE Services on Hawaii Island: firstname.lastname@example.org or 935-3050
» Family Life Center on Maui: email@example.com or 877-0880
» Kauai Economic Opportunity: firstname.lastname@example.org or 245-4077, ext. 228
Once they’re contacted, service groups on Oahu, Maui, Hawaii and Kauai can only encourage homeless people to seek treatment and have no power to force them into services, Abercrombie acknowledged.
But Alexander said this year’s sweep of dozens of homeless people living in Kakaako resulted in 1 out of 4 seeking some form of follow-up service.
Yesterday’s announcement came just seven months before President Barack Obama hosts the leaders of 21 countries in Waikiki in November at the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Meeting.
The Abercrombie administration is working on helping homeless find services "because it’s our moral obligation to solve this problem," Schatz said. "On the other hand, it’s (APEC) a handy deadline. … We want to have some progress to show our community and the international community."
The initiative involves no government money, but now connects residents with state, city, federal and nonprofit groups devoted to helping the homeless, Schatz said.
The Waikiki Health Center Care-A-Van program in Kaimuki will be the main contact on Oahu, and Darlene Hein, director of community services, said some homeless people require weeks and months of encouragement before they will seek services.
Getting residents involved in identifying homeless people is a "very positive step forward," Hein said.
Dean Huddy, 45, lives in a van in Ewa Beach with his wife, Malia, and knows many homeless people will resist getting help.
But others will welcome any assistance, Huddy said.
"They just need a hand," he said.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii gave cautious support for the idea yesterday. "Providing information to people experiencing homelessness about available health and social service providers is a positive step," Lois Perrin, legal director of the ACLU of Hawaii, said in a statement. "The ACLU of Hawaii is willing to work with the administration and the service providers to ensure that everyone’s constitutional rights are respected."