Homeless outreach center unveiled in Kane'ohe
Attempts to curb Windward O'ahu's growing homeless population are gaining ground. City and state officials collaborated with community organizations to open a new joint outreach center in Kane'ohe. Its a hub homeless can turn to that can help them get back on their feet.
Homelessness on the windward side isn't as widespread as what many see in Honolulu but the issue exists within the community. According to the state, about 200 homeless can be found from Kane'ohe to Waimanalo. But there's faith that number will decrease.
"There are no shelters for them and very few programs. This is a center of hope in providing a way back into the community," said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.
Homeless in the area will be able to access everything from mental treatment to medical care.
State Senator Jarrett Keohokalole, D-Kane'ohe, was one of the lawmakers that pushed to open the center. He's seen firsthand how the situation's deteriorated through the years.
"This problem has impacted families across our community and our community in general. So we can provide access for those folks to get help when they're ready and when they want it and when they need it then. We know they're going to use it," said Sen. Keohokalole.
The site is part of a three year pilot program modeled after the Joint Operation Center in Chinatown. Both centers are geared toward getting Hawaii's chronically homeless off the streets.
"My typical day is full of changing wound dressings usually with people who are also mentally ill or addicted to drugs. That's not just putting a band-aid. It's trying to dig deeper, like, 'Gee, how did this wound get so bad and what can we do,'" said Nurse Practitioner Anne Leake.
Data has shown JOC's can help save hospitals millions of dollars.
"Instead of allowing a wound to fester on the streets and for that individual to end up in the emergency room with a sky high medical bill that's not gonna be paid...instead we have a joint out reach center to catch that early," said Rep. Scot Matayoshi, D-Olomana.
The center is located next to Kane'ohe Police Station across from Benjamin Parker Elementary. Lawmakers say school staff find needles and feces homeless leave behind there and many are pleased services will be available. Kane'ohe JOC will officially open on Monday at 10 a.m.