Tourism Organizations Award $105K for Homelessness Services in Honolulu

July 26, 2019, 9:17 AM HST · Updated July 26, 9:17 AM
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The Hawai‘i Lodging & Tourism Association, in partnership with the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority, awarded grants of $90,162 and $15,000 to the Hawai‘i Health & Harm Reduction Center and Chinatown Improvement District, respectively, for homelessness services in downtown Honolulu.

Similar grants totaling $150,000 were distributed in April to nine nonprofit organizations on Maui that serve the homeless.  Maui recipients were: Catholic Charities of Hawaiʻi, Maui Division; Family Life Center; Feed My Sheep; Habitat for Humanity; Hale Kau Kau; Ka Hale a Ke Ola Homeless Resource Center; Keiki Cupboard; Maui Food Bank, and The Salvation Army Hawaiian & Pacific Division, Maui Corps.

PC: The Hawai‘i Lodging & Tourism Association.

The Hawai‘i Health & Harm Reduction Center will use the money to train police officers and outreach workers patterned after Seattle’s successful Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program, which helps divert offenders suspected of certain low-level crimes to social services instead of criminal prosecution. Funds will also provide personal hygiene supplies, food, transportation, assistance, and money for identification and other documentation; transportation for the homeless to medical treatment and appointments; and peer assistance.

This grant is being made in collaboration with the Honolulu Police Department as part of the department’s H.E.L.P. (Health, Efficiency, Long-term Partnerships) homeless outreach efforts. During HLTA’s Visitor Public Safety Conference in March, Police Chief Susan Ballard had elaborated on homelessness concerns and asked for more support from the industry to help the police with this community-based approach to address the problem.

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The Chinatown Improvement District will use its award for a security patrol pilot program in the area.

HLTA president and CEO Mufi Hannemann said, “Much of our past efforts on Oʻahu regarding homelessness have focused in Waikīkī, a major tourism hub for the state. Homelessness affects the experiences of our millions of visitors, employees in resort areas, and the general public, so every step we can take in creating solutions contributes to our progress in this regard. Chinatown certainly qualifies for an area that attracts its fair share of visitors. These grants were the outcome of an effective public-private partnership between the Legislature and State Administration, Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority, and visitor industry, as represented by the HLTA.”

HTA President and CEO Chris Tatum said, “The Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority is pleased to join with the visitor industry through the Hawaiʻi Lodging & Tourism Association in directing our public dollars to support charities and other organizations assisting the homeless. The state’s funding comes from tax revenues, while the industry’s matching share comes from private donations. We’re very grateful to Representative Richard Onishi and Senator Glenn Wakai for their leadership in securing this matching funding from the Legislature, and kudos to Governor Ige’s administration for facilitating the process of the release of these funds.”

Both Lt. Governor Green and HPD Chief Susan Ballard acknowledged the tremendous support of the tourism industry in assisting the Chinatown district. Chief Ballard said “Tourists don’t just stay in Waikiki. They go across the entire island; and one of the places they stop is right here in Chinatown. For the Police Department, one of the biggest concerns on our island is obviously the homeless. The direction everyone is going in now, and we are on as well, is about diversion. Arrest isn’t always the answer. Until we get them the help they need, they’re going to keep coming back. So we’re going to continue trying to work with different partners to try and get this diversion, try and get them the services they need, try and get them into permanent housing.”

Hawaiʻi Health & Harm Reduction Center Executive Director Heather Lusk said, “we’re so grateful to HLTA & HTA for their support of our innovative Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program. Public health public safety partnerships like this are the way to address homelessness, substance use, and challenges in our community. We’re also thankful for HPD’s support, and look forward to partnering with the Chinatown community to improve wellness and safety.”

Chinatown Improvement District President Lee Stack said, “we’d like to thank the many participants and supporters of this project whose ongoing efforts make it happen. HLTA and HTA’s generous support allows us to expand our reach and continue to complement the work of HPD’s H.E.L.P. Program and the Hawaiʻi Health & Harm Reduction Center’s Programs.”

Here on Maui, there were 862 homeless individuals counted in Maui County according to information compiled by Bridging the Gap, a coalition of agencies working to end homelessness on neighbor islands.  The coalition presented the results in their 2019 Homeless Point in Time Count Tuesday, April 9, 2019.

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