Protecting homeless from flu, spreading Halloween fever among homeless keiki - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Protecting homeless from flu, spreading Halloween fever among homeless keiki

Suzanne Leha Suzanne Leha
Tiare Talo Tiare Talo
Sara Grimes Sara Grimes

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

KAKAAKO (KHNL) - Medical students are giving the homeless a dose of protection this flu season.

And while they're at it, they're also hoping to give homeless children a scare.

At the Next Step shelter, the student M.D.'s held a flu shot clinic Thursday evening. 

On top of giving free vaccines, the students are also hoping to cure the blues of homeless keiki who may feel a little left out of Halloween festivities.

Suzanne Leha is one of the residents at Next Step. She has three children to feed, but there's one thing she doesn't have to worry about: flu shots, which are free for everyone at the shelter.

"So we don't get sick and so we get stronger," Tiare Talo, Leha's daughter.

"Mostly for my children, I'm glad that I can get it taken care of because it's not cheap," said Leha.

The medical students are volunteers with the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine's Homeless Outreach and Medical Education Project, or H.O.M.E. project.

"If we can help protect them, then maybe we could help make their life a little easier," said Brent Tatsuno, a medical student.

The students drive out to Oahu shelters three times a week to give the free vaccines.

There is, however, one thing the future doctors want homeless keiki to catch - Halloween fever.

"So when they go to school the next Monday, they have something to talk about with their classmates. They don't feel left out of the same experience that the other kids have," said medical student Sara Grimes.

For the third year in a row, the H.O.M.E. project is putting together Halloween carnivals at two shelters, one at Next Step, the other at the Paiolu Kaiaulu shelter in Waianae.

"It made it easier where we could just have candies here, dance, you know, my kids had fun, we even had fun," said Leha.

And for the homeless, a dose of laughter may be the best medicine for kids in need.

The H.O.M.E. project still needs donations for the Halloween carnivals, including cash, candy, costumes, and entertainment like face painting, or making balloon animals.

If you'd like to help, you can drop off donations at the John A. Burns School of Medicine in Kakaako.

The Hawaii H.O.M.E. project is the brainchild of Dr. Jill Omori. She launched the non-profit organization in August of 2005.

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