HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - There are countless shuttle buses that whisk people around Waikiki on a daily basis. But one that just started operating two weeks ago is different from all the rest.
It's owned and operated by the Institute for Human Services, the state's largest homeless service provider. It gives free rides to homeless people in Waikiki to and from the institute, located in Kalihi.
"We offer them the opportunity to take a shower, have a meal, to actually sit down with one of our intake workers, to hear more about the services that are available" said Connie Mitchell, Executive Director of the IHS.
The Food and Shower Transport, or FAST, has already serviced over 30 people in the two weeks it's been running, and six have been housed.
"We're running it 3 days a week, we're not sure if more or less is needed. The idea is to help people access many more services that are available here at IHS" said Mitchell.
FAST runs on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It makes stops at Kapiolani Park, opposite the zoo at 11 a.m., at St. Augustine's Church on Ohua Street at 11:10 a.m., then at the Ala Moana Beach Park roundabout near the tennis courts at 11:25 a.m. The bus returns IHS clientele should they choose, approximately three hours after pick up time.
The initiative is part of the IHS's Waikiki Outreach program that began in November.
The short term benefits are the showers and hot meals, but the long term goal is to get people off the streets.
"Some people cannot envision for themselves the possibility of being in a home anymore. I think sometimes it takes another person saying we can help you do this" said Mitchell.
While the shuttle was donated by a tour company, the two year program has been funded through donations. The IHS still needs to raise approximately 850,000 dollars over the life of the two years to keep it running. A fundraiser for the IHS, and the Waikiki outreach program, will be held May 9th.
Mitchell is optimistic--but also realistic.
"It's not going to be the solution for all homelessness. But I think at IHS we really want to find unique solutions for different subsets of people who are suffering from homelessness".