HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state’s largest homeless service provider will start using a new strategy next month to move some of Waikiki’s most hardcore homeless off the street.
The idea centers around late night outreach.
And the launch of the pilot project was made possible by the local tourism industry.
On Monday, tourism officials handed over a $100,000 check to the Institute for Human Services.
The funding, from the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association and Hawaii Tourism Authority, is enough to pay for the nonprofit’s newly-established Waikiki SMART Program for the next year.
Under the program, which launches Oct. 7, IHS outreach workers will team up with Honolulu police at least three nights a week to offer people a ride and a safe place to sleep when they’re the most vulnerable.
“The first phase is really introducing this new night outreach,” said Connie Mitchell, IHS executive director.
On any given night, it’s estimated there are at least 200 people on the streets of Waikiki, the state’s no. 1 tourist destination. About 80 have been identified as chronically homeless.
“We know that alcoholics constitute a large portion of some of the folks who are visibly in need of help,” said Mitchell.
She added drug use and mental illness are other issues many of the people they encounter are struggling with.
Right now, HPD says nearly half the calls it responds to islandwide involve someone who is homeless.
“Having a partner that can meet us and match us more closer to 24 hours a day ― or at least most of the day, beyond business hours is going to be huge for us,” said Capt. Mike Lambert.
In addition to beefing up outreach, St. Augustine’s Church now hosts a service fair every Thursday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
There, people can get a hot shower, medical services and a meal. They’ll also be offered shelter and can get help finding a job.
“It’s really a different population we’ll be outreaching and the hope is that we’ll be able to help more of them," Mitchell said.
She added as her team gets a better sense of who’s on the street in Waikiki, they’ll start enlisting the help of the courts ― to order treatment for people who are lost in their mental illness or drug addiction.