Kailua, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) – Former police outreach worker Sharon Black, who spent more than twenty years organizing the Kau Kau Wagon in an effort to feed the homeless and mentally ill in downtown Honolulu, has died. She was 52.
Friends say she passed away under hospice care at Hospice Hawaii's facility in Kailua late in the afternoon Thursday. She was surrounded by her family and her dogs, friends said. Black had been fighting lung cancer that had spread to her bones, brain and liver.
"My mom always told be if you believe in something, fight for it," said Nicole Black, Black's daughter who is an U.S. Army specialist stationed in Fort Riley, Kansas. "She was always worried about how people felt. She wanted people to feel good about themselves and not have to go hungry.
Her three certified therapy dogs had been assisting Black in during her struggle, as they had worked with countless other patients over the years. Mokka, Polo and Rambo are specially trained great danes who had learned to become extremely friendly with strangers. For years, Black had taken the dogs to hospitals and nursing homes to help bring cheer to patients and employees.
A week and a half ago, Black made a televised plea for someone to adopt all three of her dogs, knowing that she did not have much time to live. On Tuesday, after hearing from hundreds of people by phone and email offering help, friends and family made initial arrangements to send them to live on a ranch on the Waimea side of the Big Island.
Born in Brooklyn in 1959, Black grew up in and out of foster homes, her daughter Nicole said. Black was briefly homeless as a child, and as an adult she and her family were homeless for another short stint in Florida, Nicole Black said.
"She never forgot what it was like to be homeless," Nicole Black said.
In one of her last interviews with a reporter last month, Black said, "I really care about people and I always wanted to help others. That never changed in my heart. And it never will."
Black and her family arrived in Hawaii in 1986. She went to work at the Honolulu Police Department as HPD's first outreach worker dealing with the homeless and mentally ill. Known as "M.H. One," she would be summoned to crime scenes by police officers who needed her expertise to diagnose someone's mental condition. She was one of the few non-doctors who could have someone taken to the hospital for mental evaluation.
Funeral arrangements and memorial services are pending. Friends said her dogs will attend the service.
Besides her daughter, Black is survived by her son, Chez Black, of Washington, D.C.
In 2001, the Honolulu City Council approved paying her $612,000 to settle a 1997 sexual harassment lawsuit against the Honolulu Police Department. Black claimed she was sexually harassed for years by former Assistant Chief Joseph Aveiro Jr. and that other high ranking police brass failed to discipline him. She said Aveiro demanded sex in exchange for renewing her contract as HPD's outreach worker who worked with the homeless population.
In 2006, Black was indicted by an Oahu grand jury for unauthorized computer access, fourth-degree theft and tampering with a government record, charges she said were in retaliation for her police lawsuit. The criminal case stemmed from research she was conducting into suicides at the city Medical Examiner's office, Black said.
A judge later declared a mistrial and dismissed the case after a jury failed to reach a verdict.
Woman dying from cancer finds home for therapy dogs