211 hotline now an important lifeline for homeless - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

211 hotline now an important lifeline for homeless

Rose Puu (Image: Hawaii News Now) Rose Puu (Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now) (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Casey Spoor (Image: Hawaii News Now) Casey Spoor (Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now) (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Jay King (Image: Hawaii News Now) Jay King (Image: Hawaii News Now)
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Rose Puu couldn't hold back the tears.  

"I feel happy. Because it took me a long time to do all this," she said.

In fact, she doubted the day would ever come. After spending seven years on the streets, the Honolulu woman just moved into an apartment thanks to the new Coordinated Statewide Homeless Initiative.

"I said I have a choice of either being on the street or saving my family," she said. "So I took the opportunity to do it."

Puu was first connected to the program while staying at the city's Hale Mauliola homeless shelter on Sand Island.

But that same help is now just a phone call away -- through the state's 211 hotline.

For decades, 211 was a way for people to get general information on a wide variety of services statewide. Recently, though, Aloha United Way teamed up with the state to expand its call center.

The hotline can now connect homeless people with service providers across the state.

The program has only been up and running for about two months, but in that short time it has already helped 1,000 people either find housing or stay off the streets.

Seventy-five percent of those people have been families with children who are being evicted because they can't afford rent.

"You can hear that stress and anxiety in their calls. Sometimes they are quite emotional," said Casey Spoor, 211 information referral specialist.

The program can assist callers with money to cover three months rent. If you're homeless, the service can help pay for the security and utility deposits as well as rent. Financial assistance is just one facet of the program.

"Every client has to go through budget and financial counseling. Every client has to work with a case manager and have a housing plan to make sure they address the cause of that homeless situation or at risk situation so that they are sustainable," said Jay King, program manager for the Coordinated Statewide Homeless Initiative.

As for Puu, she's getting used to living with a roof over her head.

"It's a two bedroom. I really like it," she said. "I can say it's home."

While Puu gets settled into her new place, she's determined to put the past behind her and make a better life for her family. "Going forward I don't want to stop," she said. "So everyone that was trying to block me, I push them all to the side and face forward."

The program can also help people find food pantries, get bus passes, a cell phone and more. 

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