Experts: Helping chronic homeless off streets takes time, patien - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Experts: Helping chronic homeless off streets takes time, patience

Homeless outreach workers say sweeps won't help move the chronically homeless off the streets. Homeless outreach workers say sweeps won't help move the chronically homeless off the streets.
Homeless outreach workers say the chronically homeless need lots of assistance to move off the streets. Homeless outreach workers say the chronically homeless need lots of assistance to move off the streets.
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Homeless sweeps won't be enough to get Oahu's most hardcore homeless to move into homeless shelters, experts say.

"What we're finding is a lot of people who are homeless and who want help and need help are getting it right away. Folks who may be have mental illness or substance abuse problems, it's taking a lot longer," said Institute for Human Services senior outreach specialist Justin Phillips.

Over the past year, the number of homeless in Waikiki has dropped dramatically, officials say.

Of the 40 to 60 people who remain, say experts, most want nothing to do with homeless shelters. And most are chronically homeless.

Under federal guidelines, a chronically homeless person is defined as someone who has a disabling condition and has been continuously homeless for a year or more or has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the last three years.

Phillips says he's seen the same homeless woman in Waikiki periodically over the past three months. After multiple attempts to talk to her she hasn't even told him her name.

"When we first saw her she had wounds on her feet," he said. "We engage her. Ask her if she wants help. She won't look at us. She looks away."

Phillips says working with mentally ill can be extremely challenging. In some cases it can take years to build trust but it's all about consistency.

"Once they realize you're not going to steal from them, you're not going to harm them, you're not going to force them to take medications, that relationship opens up," said Phillips.

Phillips says he sees the most resistance from homeless who have accessed services before.

"There like I've been there. I've done that. F that. I'm not doing that," said Phillips.

Buddy McCarroll has been on the streets a long time.

Over the past year, Phillips has had at least 40 documented encounters with him.

"We've been in and out of shelter. We've suggested treatment. He's become a frequent flier of the emergency room for heart disease because of alcoholism," said Phillips.

Hawaii News Now asked McCarroll why he wasn't interested in getting help.

"Because I don't want to relate to their rules," said McCarroll.

Meantime, Phillips will continue to pound the pavement working to get the island's most resistant homeless into housing.

He says coming in contact with the same people at least three times a week is key.

"We didn't become this high homeless population overnight. This was a gradual process. So we're not going to work our way out of it overnight," said Phillips.

This is just one of several outreach groups.  There are others doing the same thing on a daily basis in communities across Oahu.  

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