Helping homeless cancer patients on Maui gain access to safe, clean housing
Ka Hale A Ke Ola Homeless Resource Centers and the Pacific Cancer Foundation are working together to help homeless cancer patients on Maui get safe, clean housing for vitally needed, life-saving medical treatment.
“Most of us have family or friends who’ve underwent cancer treatment, and it’s hard to imagine going through such an ordeal without a safe and clean place to stay,” said Monique R. Ibarra, Executive director of Ka Hale A Ke Ola in a news release announcement. “We welcome the opportunity to partner with the Pacific Cancer Foundation and help fill a gap in local healthcare and social service assistance for homeless cancer patients.”
Linda Puppolo, Executive Director of the Pacific Cancer Foundation said, “You can’t get effective cancer treatment if you’re living on the beach or sleeping overnight in a car. Cancer does not wait. Houselessness can turn a survivable cancer into a death sentence. We’re trying to find solutions.”
Ka Hale A Ke Ola is ready to make beds available at its Hale Hoʻola Medical Respite Shelter at its Waiale Road facility in Wailuku. The shelter has two recently remodeled units with up to five private or semi-private beds. Patients would also have 24/7 security at the shelter and receive nutritious meals needed for them to get through cancer treatment.
The respite shelter has been in operation since 2019, providing housing for homeless patients who’ve been released from acute care at Maui Memorial Medical Center but still need outpatient medical care before being released into the community.
“Many houseless patients don’t have ground transportation or access to a clean bathroom or safe place to rest during treatment,” Puppolo said in the release. “Many gap-group (18- to 55-year-old) patients have lost their jobs because they are ill and lose their medical benefits. Good quality food and clean housing are vitally important for patients to attain a healthy weight while undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments.”
The housing for homeless cancer patients will be at no cost for individuals.
The Pacific Cancer Foundation is seeking a $135,000 grant-in-aid from the State of Hawaiʻi for housing assistance for homeless cancer patients. While that grant request is pending, the foundation is turning to the general public for help with donations. For more information on how to help, visit pacificcancerfoundation.org/donate/.
Many homeless cancer patients lose their privileges to access federally subsidized food assistance and medical insurance because they have no homes to receive mail or email.
The beds for homeless cancer patients at KHAKO’s Hale Hoʻola Medical Respite Shelter would give the Pacific Cancer Foundation time to secure longer-term housing subsidies with help from partner agencies such as Maui Economic Opportunity Inc., Goodwill and others. PCF has a registered dietician to help with nutritional supplements to help patients keep food down and maintain a healthy weight during chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
Dr. Benjamin Falit, medical director and radiation oncologist at the Pacific Cancer Institute, emphasized the critical connection between a healthy home environment and positive outcomes for cancer patients.
“It is incredibly important that cancer patients have clean, safe housing,” Dr. Falit said. “At the Pacific Cancer Institute, we treat many homeless patients, and their living situations make it very difficult to achieve favorable medical outcomes. Many of these patients do not have easy access to bathing facilities, clean water or proper nutrition. I routinely witness these patients struggle through treatments that a patient with proper shelter and access to food would get through much more easily. Unfortunately, such patients end up discontinuing cancer treatment early in large part because of the challenges associated with homelessness.”
In 2021, KHAKO sheltered 781 individuals, served 37,889 meals and placed 246 individuals into permanent housing. For more information, visit www.khako.org, email [email protected] or call the Central Maui Center at 808-242-7600 or the Westside Center at 808-662-0076.
The Pacific Cancer Foundation provides free support services to cancer patients and caregivers, including navigation, nutritional support, transportation, counseling, wellness classes and education. For more information, visit pacificcancerfoundation.org, email [email protected] or call 808-242-7661.