Homeless program coming to Hawaii - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Homeless program coming to Hawaii

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

A consortium of some of the state's top leaders gathered at the Hawaii Community Development Authority in Kaka'ako Wednesday.  To listen.

The person doing the speaking was Dr. Sam Tsemberis, developer of the Housing First Program.

"Housing First is a program that provides people who are homeless and have complex problems like mental health problems or addiction problems a place to live right away, and then provides a lot of support services to them after they're housed" Dr. Tsemberis described.

This runs opposite to other treatments, in which the homeless are offered treatment before housing.  Tsemberis thinks that logic is counter-intuitive.

"They're not thinking treatment, they're thinking survival.  Where am I going to sleep tonight?  Where am I going to eat?"

Housing First has been implemented in several cities on the mainland, which have all reported great success. 

Now he's bringing the program to Hawaii.

"The state has received a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, that grant is for 2.1 million dollars" said Colin Kippen, Chair of the Hawaii Interagency Council on Homelessness.

The grant will cover the cost of a pilot program, in which 100 homeless people in the state will enter into the Housing First program.  Services and housing will be furnished by existing providers working in partnership with the state.

The program is underway with provider training now; however, there is no timetable for when the first homeless will enter into the program.

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