HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hundreds of homeless people on Oahu received key services Sunday thanks to members of Hawaii’s Taiwanese population.
This week marks 40 years since the U.S. Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act,a measure that helped the country remain independent from China. Several Taiwanese community organizations handed out food and clothes, provided medical care and testing, along with many other services at the Punawai Rest Stop in Iwilei.
"I have been doing it without a tent. Just straight sidewalk, nothing but concrete," said Andrew Kanea who was at the event Saturday morning. Kanae is working his way through a rough patch. "I have been kind of unsheltered, I refuse to say homeless, for about a year now."
There are others here who, for whatever reason, have it worse than Kanae. Serious medical conditions, and mental health issues keep so many of them from moving up. This event was meant to give them a little extra push forward.
“It’s basically meeting our clientele where they are at. Not everybody is really ready for apartment living or going into a home like situation so this is part of a continuum of housing where we provide basic necessary services,” said City Councilman Joey Manahan who spearheaded plans for the Punawai rest stop. Since opening back in January, the hygiene center has helped more than 700 people. It’s a place where they can do laundry, take a shower and feel human again.
Sunday special occasion may seem like an odd pairing, but the Director General of the Taipei Economic and cultural office says its the perfect way to celebrate 40 years of official U.S.-Taiwan relations. While the immigrant population is relatively small in Hawaii, many of the Taiwanese people who are here are doctors.
"We can easily ask for those semi-retired, retired even active medical doctors, in all areas and easily summon for 20 to 30 of them," said Michael Tseng.
Lt. Governor Josh Green also attended the event and praised everyone involved for their hard work improving the lives of Oahu's homeless population.
“By seeing people here in this setting rather than in the emergency department or in the hospital or in a much more serious moment, we save thousands and thousands of tax payer dollars, we decrease suffering very dramatically and this is the kind of thing that should be done all across the state,” said Green.
Eventually, the Punawai Rest Stop will expand to the floors above, adding a medical facility to the second floor and 40 housing units on the third and fourth floors. Some of that work could begin as early as this summer.