KALIHI (HawaiiNewsNow) - On the grounds of St. Elizabeth's Episcopal Church in Kalihi, a tiny office is turning into the command center for helping Oahu's Micronesians.
"It's something that we've been dreaming of and wanting for a long time" Josie Howard said.
The federal government awarded $250,000 in grant assistance to the Partners in Development Foundation to establish the We are Oceania Micronesian One-Stop Service Center.
"It was clear to us that we also have to help empower the Micronesian community themselves to take control over their own destinies," said Esther Kiaaina, assistant secretary for Insular Affairs at the U.S. State Department.
Howard is the center's director. She and others will help Micronesians navigate what can be a complicated system for new arrivals, things like where to go for Social Security and a State ID.
"All the forms are in English. So they need people like us to explain the form to them so they can fill it out correctly," she said.
The Centers initial focus will be helping clients with health and education issues, housing and labor. Census data shows 14,700 Micronesians live in Hawaii. The Department of Human Services says more than 1,100 are homeless.
"They have every right to improve their quality of life here in Hawaii and the United States," Kiaaina said.
The Center officially opens next Friday but work has already begun.
"Even government agencies like Child Welfare Service have been calling us to get information on where to go to help the clients that they're servicing," Howard said.