After funding loss, nonprofit that serves homeless youth turns to community for help

Updated: Apr. 2, 2021 at 5:42 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - At the Residential Youth Service and Empowerment Assessment Center in Kailua, homeless youth ages 18 to 24 find a safe place to sleep and to start their lives over.

“Our young people are so resilient,” Executive Director Carla Houser said.

RYSE has had many success stories since it opened its doors in 2018.

“We see about 125 young people per year who come through the assessment aenter. Fifty-nine percent of them are able to be successfully transitioned off of the streets,” Houser said.

The non-profit that goes by the acronym RYSE is helping 20-year-old Audri Huihui find her way.

“It’s nice to be able to relate to people,” she said. “That sense of camaraderie has helped me not feel so alone.”

Now RYSE needs help.

“With the budget crisis that has happened to the state, we were told in January that our Ohana Zone funding, which is about $600,000 a year, would not be renewed,” Houser said.

That’s a big blow that’s forcing the non-profit to pivot back to asking the community for help.

On Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., RYSE will hold a donation drive at Kailua District Park. It needs monetary donations and supplies.

“Travel size deodorants, socks, everything from tooth brushes, toothpaste, those types of things. If the community doesn’t provide it, it’s a dollar line that we have to fulfill,” Houser said.

According to HUD, Hawaii is high on the list of states with unsheltered homeless youth.

“That is not a statistic that our state should be proud of,” Houser said.

RYSE is doing all it can to bring that number down by providing residents with medical care, social services and educational programs.

Having a safe space gives Huihui time to assess her situation and plan a better path.

“We have resources to help us get our of here and get our own places, or find our own stability,” she said.

RYSE also offers a reminder that behind the statistics on homeless youth are real people.

“They inspire us on a day to day basis. If they can do this, we’ll walk right beside them in whatever capacity we need to. We’ll make this happen,” Houser said.

To learn more about RYSE and to help, click here.

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