HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Some panhandlers pace up and down the median of busy streets begging drivers for change while others sit quietly simply holding a sign.
Now instead of giving someone a few dollars the city wants people to start handing out these instead:
On the front of the business card is the question "Need Housing?"
And on the back are three phone numbers to agencies that can help that person get off the street:
- Aloha United Way: Dial 211 or go to www.auw211.org
- Honolulu Office of Housing: 768-4675
- Statewide homeless help line: 586-0193
"What people like about this is it's quick. It's simple," said Marc Alexander.
The head of the mayor's Office of Housing says giving cash only enables people to continue their lifestyle on the street while the cards provide direct contact to agencies that can end people's homelessness.
"We know the community wants to help. And we want to give people an easy way that's also effective to get the word out about services," said Alexander.
The program just launched earlier this month. Fifteen thousand cards cost the city less than $400 to produce. They're currently being distributed by police officers, medics and some homeless service providers. In the new year the city will make them available to everyone.
Many of the people Hawaii News Now talked to questioned how receptive homeless people would be.
"For people to hand out something like that, it's a change and I think people could be afraid of that," said Andrea Thomas.
Wood Soueira agreed, "Half the battle is they don't want to. We offer all of these places and they don't really want to go.
Added Chris Richmond, "There's a lot of people they're not coming back into society so we should just cut our losses and focus on the ones we can help."
But when we put the card into action Thursday afternoon at the corner of Pali Highway and the H-1 freeway we got a different reaction.
"Can I have this? Or do you have more of these?" asked a panhandler named Chris.
The man seemed genuinely happy to have the numbers and said he would call.
"It's hard because you feel like the whole world is caving in on you. But there's hope," Chris said. "You walked up to me and gave me this. Yeah, I think this could be a great help."
In the coming months, the city says the plan is to distribute the cards to neighborhood boards across Oahu.
If you would like a stack now, go to Honolulu Hale. You can pick some up from the managing director's office on the 3rd floor.