Partners In Care — the group organizing January’s six-day census of Oahu’s homeless — needs hygiene products and volunteers in every community.
“If you get involved in this as an individual community member, it broadens your sense of what a community is and what a community can be,” said Sam Millington, executive director of Partners In Care.
Volunteers will pass out hygiene kits to homeless people they meet from Jan. 22 to 27 to “break the ice” during the annual nationwide homeless census called the Point in Time Count, said Heather Lusk, vice chairwoman of Partners in Care who is also executive director of the Hawai‘i Health &Harm Reduction Center.
The first night, Jan. 22, will be the most critical in the survey. Lusk is also coordinating with neighbor island Point in Time counts to be conducted from Jan. 22 to 27.
Volunteers will ask old and new questions of the homeless people they meet, such as whether they were ever homeless before becoming adults; whether they have pets; whether they qualify for Hawaiian Homestead property; and whether a natural disaster — such as this year’s eruption of Kilauea Volcano — played a role in their becoming homeless.
Social service agencies meet regularly to compare the status of homeless people they deal with regularly and know by name, so a successful Point in Time Count would account for every single person who is also being tracked by social workers on the so-called “by name list,” Lusk said.
In January during the last count, every island reported fewer homeless people for a cumulative reduction of nearly 10 percent. The 6,530 people found still amounted to the highest per capita homeless rate in the nation.
While Partners in Care is coordinating the overall Oahu effort, individual social service agencies will direct volunteers in different parts of the island.
“Meeting people where they are is literally meeting people where they are,” said Connie Mitchell, executive director of the Institute for Human Services, which will direct volunteers from Piikoi Street through Waikiki and along the Windward side of the island.
Partners in Care comprises 54 members, including social service agencies, government officials and The Queen’s Medical Center.
Millington hopes to include representatives from small businesses and corporations whom he believes would bring different perspectives to addressing homelessness on Oahu.
“They have knowledge,” Millington said. “It’s their communities, their businesses. They’re seeing things we may not see. We want to hear their voices. If we get more perspectives on this problem, we may get new insights.”
But even if Partners in Care manages to get only new volunteers for January’s Point in Time Count, Millington would consider that a success.
“We can help humanize this problem,” he said.
To volunteer or donate hygiene products, visit partnersincareoahu.org