They walk the streets at night to convince homeless teens to accept help. Sometimes, it works
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Gabriel Freitas walked the streets of Downtown Honolulu and Chinatown this week looking for homeless kids to offer services.
Freitas spent much of his teenage years on the streets of Kakaako so he knows how to connect with the youth.
He’s now the night outreach coordinator for the non-profit, RYSE, which stands for Residential Youth Services and Empowerment.
On this night, he’s joined by Katherine Saneewong, the lead outreach coordinator at RYSE.
Saneewong is a recovering meth addict who has been sober for seven years.
Their approach to outreach comes from years of experience on the streets.
Most of the people they see are sleeping; some covered in blankets and others sleeping while sitting up.
“Excuse me, you home?” Freitas asked a man named Danny.
Freitas and Saneewong offer him gummies and other snacks, along with water.
Danny is an adult but tells the pair that there are still some teens in the area.
The most recent “point in time” count showed a steady decline in homeless families in recent years.
Outreach workers try to find the youth that need a place to stay, hot meals and treatment for addiction.
Freitas said becoming a father is what forced him to get off the streets.
“If I didn’t have my kids, I’m going to be honest with you, I’d probably still be out here and nothing would change but seeing them struggle is what broke me,” he said.
For Saneewong, a prison sentence is what convinced her to get sober.
“I was missing out on all those years with my kids. I just didn’t want it anymore.”
This is their way of giving back to the various non-profits that helped them.
Most of the outreach by RYSE workers is done during the day, five days a week.
Night outreach is done Tuesdays and Thursdays because some of the youth go to school or just feel more comfortable coming out at night.
RYSE doesn’t just stick to the downtown areas, either. They frequently visit Waipahu and the west side.
They use backpacks to haul the candy, water, brochures for services and Narcan, a medication that can instantly reverse an opioid overdose.
Freitas and Saneewong tell the teens fentanyl is showing up, mixed in with other drugs.
Sometimes, the pair simply offer the people they meet some company.
They strike up a conversation with a man near the Kumu Kahua Theater in downtown.
They don’t always get a warm welcome. Some people ask for cash, which they do not carry while doing outreach.
Other people just walk away when approached.
But most of the people they encounter are grateful. The possibility that they may someday accept assistance is what keeps the outreach workers coming back, day and night.
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