Homeless triage center that Chinatown residents rejected may have found a new home

Updated: Jul. 1, 2020 at 5:42 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - More than 700 people are living on the streets in Honolulu’s urban core. Half of them have been there for years, unable to afford rent or suffering from drug abuse.

Those figures are from Oahu’s latest homeless count ― and the rationale behind a new triage center for the homeless.

Last month, Chinatown residents opposed the facility. But the program may have now found a home in Kalihi, in a two-story building that’s hard to miss.

Painted peach with teal trim, it’s situated in a bustling neighborhood at the corner of North King Street and Long Lane. Over the next few months, the plan is to turn the vacant structure into a homeless hub with a two-fold goal.

“This is going to be the new home of two programs that will be serving people impacted by the COVID pandemic,” said Connie Mitchell, executive director of the Institute for Human Services.

The first floor will house a jobs center.

Outreach workers will also be on hand for folks who need to find a place to stay or help paying their rent or utilities.

Mitchell said, “The upstairs program is called the homeless triage and transfer station.”

It’s a quiet place for people to stabilize ― a rare break from the streets that the city hopes will help outreach workers connect with Honolulu’s most hardened homeless.

“It’s a very short-term stay. A stabilization period. Might be a day. Might be two or three days but the goal is to place them in permanent housing or shelter or treatment,” said city Department of Community Services Director Pamela Witty-Oakland.

Unlike the previously proposed location at 65 Beretania St. in Chinatown, many businesses in the Kalihi neighborhood support the idea, saying the need is overwhelming.

“There is a very serious problem in this neighborhood,” said Kai Wang, manager at Golden Cabinets and Stone. He said they often find people sleeping in the parking lot and he worries it’s driving away business.

Wang said he welcomes the idea of more outreach workers in the neighborhood.

“It’s a good thing to have,” he said.

IHS says it also has the support of Councilman Joey Manahan and the neighborhood board.

Money to purchase the building will come from the federal CARES Act. If all goes as planned, IHS hopes its CARES Center is up and running by September.

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