Shelters offer feedback on state's 90-day homeless plan

Connie Mitchell
Connie Mitchell
Jonathan DeMotta
Jonathan DeMotta
Utu Langi
Utu Langi

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Tents belonging to the homeless are easy to spot, but Governor Neil Abercrombie said progress is being made to get people off the streets. Halfway through the state's 90-day plan on homelessness, some shelters have noticed a difference. The initiative was designed to offer immediate action by encouraging various groups that help the homeless to collaborate.

The Institute for Human Services has been serving up more meals since the state urged groups to stop feeding the homeless in public parks. A couple of organizations have now moved their meal programs to the shelter in Iwilei.

"Our biggest meals are breakfast and dinner, and those two meals we've seen an increase of about 10% to 15% more people coming in," said IHS executive director Connie Mitchell.

The goal is to encourage the homeless to head to shelters where they can receive other critical services.

"We've had like a 5% to 7% bump in the number of people coming in, but we've also been outreaching people and actually placing them directly into housing," Mitchell said.

But some people plan to continue feeding the homeless in parks.

"You gotta feed people. You have to help people," said Waipio resident Jonathan DeMotta who feeds the homeless at Aala Park. "Me and my friend, we feel really good about doing what we do."

"I think when they understand what was behind that request, it's really not about not serving people or not feeding people, but really trying to provide more services for people," Mitchell said.

River of Life Mission said it's preparing up to 150 extra meals each week. Over in Kakaako, the Next Step shelter has seen an increase in demand for transitional housing.

"There are quite a few numbers of what we call in the field as "chronic homeless" who have shown up here and have become members of Next Step," said Utu Langi.

Many homeless, however, are living in tents, and clearing public areas is part of the plan. Police just moved campers from private property near Kukui Gardens, but several others are set up on sidewalks just a block away. During the second half of the plan, groups that help the homeless hope to see more changes that will move people off the streets.

"At one time we had more than 400 people living here and there is space that we can utilize, but of course, it comes down to funding," explained Langi.

When the initiative ends on August 15, the state plans to have new partnerships and policies in place. Other issues like affordable housing and workforce development will also be addressed in a separate long-term plan.

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