The Hawaii Community Foundation plans to allocate $4 million to eight homeless shelters across the state to help move homeless families into long-term housing.

The shelters have until early next year to come up with projects eligible for the grant money. The funds are not expected to be used for rent, but could pay for staff training and development, adding a particular counseling service or hiring someone to serve as a liaison with landlords to acquire housing for the homeless, said Chris van Bergeijk, vice president and chief operating officer at Hawaii Community Foundation.

homeless tents near Aala Park

Homeless tents near Aala Park.

Chad Blair/Civil Beat

The ultimate goals are to more quickly move homeless families out of transitional and emergency shelters, or off the street, and into stable housing, increase the number of families that have access to such housing and aid collaboration among homeless service providers.

Families comprise about 40 percent of the population seeking homeless services, according to the Hawaii Community Foundation. This includes 3,500 children. Once families enter shelters in Hawaii, they spend on average about a year in transitional housing — way longer than a federal goal of 20 days.

“We felt like government was paying a lot of attention to the chronic homeless situation in respect to individuals, but we felt like the family situation was at a scale that we felt like we could have some impact,” said van Bergeijk.

Funds will also go to support the implementation of a digital assessment tool in the shelters that includes detailed assessments of homeless individuals and families and their needs, as well as available shelters, housing and services. The system, spearheaded by Colin Kippen, the state’s homelessness czar, has been under development since last year and has so far assessed some 900 homeless people.

The $4 million, which will be stretched out over three years, comes from 13 nonprofit foundations in an effort orchestrated by the Hawaii Community Foundation.

The following shelters, which provide half of the available beds for homeless families, will receive the funding under the program called HousingASAP:

  • Alternative Structures International
  • Catholic Charities Hawai‘i
  • Family Life Center, Inc. (Maui)
  • Family Promise of Hawai‘i
  • HOPE Services Hawai‘i, Inc. (Hawai‘i Island)
  • Institute for Human Services, Inc.
  • United States Veterans Initiative
  • Waikīkī Health

The state has ramped up efforts to tackle Hawaii’s growing homeless problem in recent years, as has the city of Honolulu, which appropriated some $47 million in funding this year to make a dent in the number of people living on the streets.

Van Bergeijk said that the Hawaii Community Foundation worked extensively with both city and state officials in coming up with the homeless initiative, which has been in the works for a year.

The Omidyar Ohana Fund, established by Pierre and Pam Omidyar, is managed by the Hawaii Community Foundation. Pierre Omidyar is the CEO and publisher of Civil Beat.

About the Author