For unaccompanied homeless youth, help is hard to find

For Oahu's unaccompanied homeless youth, help is hard to find

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - On Christmas Eve, an old Honolulu department store will be transformed into a haven for homeless children.

"Three hot meals, snacks all night long. They will be given presents Christmas morning," said Nani Medeiros, HomeAid Hawaii executive director.

This is the second year Medeiros has organized HomeAid Hawaii's Home for the Holiday, which gives young people a little respite for the holidays.

"They get this incredible feeling of peace and safety. Nobody's going to steal their things, wake them up, make them move," Medeiros said.

But for many youth, that security will last just one night.

According to the latest point-in-time count, there are 168 unaccompanied homeless youth statewide.

Experts believe the number is actually closer to 1,000. And for many of them, help is hard to find.

The state's only shelter for minors living on their own is in Ewa Beach, while the majority of unaccompanied youth stay in Waikiki and Kakaako.

"For them to stay in a shelter that's a regular shelter, their parents would have to give approval," said Connie Mitchell, executive director of the Institute for Human Services.

But soon there could be more options.

"What we would do is expand island-wide," said Jennifer Stasch, Director of Partners in Care, a consortium of homeless providers.

In January, Stasch will find out if Oahu will get $3 million in federal money to fund more youth drop-in centers, shelters, even permanent housing.

"And also create transportation for youth. We found that was a barrier to them accessing services. They just have issues getting to and from where some of these different services are located," she said.

Stasch says a portion of the money would also go toward hiring more outreach workers. Right now, there are only two on Oahu who work specifically with homeless youth.

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