Big Island families, individuals sleeping in cars, benches, bushes tell their stories : Big Island Now

On January 27, 2023, Brandee Menino, Executive Director of Hope Services, said outreach workers were playing with young children while surveying parents for federally mandated point-in-time counts. increase. Photo: Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now

On a sunny Thursday night, an 18-month-old boy runs barefoot in circles in the corner of a near-empty parking lot in Kona.

A toddler in diapers and a long-sleeved shirt ran to his mother, then to Duke, the big yellow dog.

Nearby was his father, standing next to a dark hatchback crammed with clothes and other belongings. The car is their home.

“What’s your name?” Rahi Kanakanui, adult mental health housing navigator at Hope Services Hawaii Outreach, asked his father. “How long have you been away from your car?”

The family of three is one of the homeless people on the west side of the Big Island who were counted Thursday night as part of the annual federally mandated homeless point-in-time count.

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Over the past week, volunteers and outreach members from the nonprofit HOPE Service Hawaii, led by Menino, have traveled to every corner of the island, visiting streets, parks, beaches, bushes and parking lots looking for someone to score points. . time survey.

For a federally mandated point-in-time count on January 27, 2023, Hope Services outreach workers are surveying a homeless man known as “OG” in Kona.Big Island Now

The federal government looks at figures across the country to determine how to allocate funds to the homeless in various communities across the country. The data collected provides insight into how many people are homeless on any given night. This year, outreach and volunteers are asking people, “Where did you sleep on January 22nd?”

For a couple and a young child they slept in the car. The father, who is in his 20s, told Kanakanui that he had been living in the car with her girlfriend and young child for about five months.

“We need to get out of this box,” he said, giving a slight kick to one of the vehicle’s disjointed rear tires.

The girlfriend didn’t want to be identified because of the negative stigma that comes with being homeless. She said that this time would be different because there was a

A Hope Services outreach worker conducting a federally mandated point-in-time count survey in Kona on January 27, 2023. Photo: Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now
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“We make sure he has some sort of schedule,” she said.

Both she and her boyfriend work part-time, but because they need to take care of their children, they don’t get any full-time jobs. She said she recently signed up for her Door Dash as a way to make extra money for her.

The parking lot is one of several locations found by an outreach team of seven on Thursday from 6:30 pm to 10:00 pm. They also handed out food, blankets, hygiene products, beanies, jackets, and Narcan, a nasal spray that reverses the effects of drug overdoses.

Hope Services outreach team lead Carrie Hoʻopiʻi said the count is going well. Over the past few years, that was a problem because they didn’t recognize the need for an investigation.”

The outreach team has done a lot of work this year to inform the homeless community about the research and its purpose.

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“It’s hard to find a family because you don’t want to stand out,” Hopi said. “They believe it interferes with custody of the children.”

For homeless families, Hoopii said spending the night at Keiki is difficult for parents who are sacrificing their basic needs.

The small team conducted at least 50 surveys on Thursday.

After exiting the parking lot, the group went to Alii Drive and parked by Hale Halawai. They walked through the hustle and bustle of Kona’s nightlife, chatting with homeless men and women who had gathered on the seawall across from Coconut Grove, a dining and shopping area, as the waves crashed behind them.

On January 27, 2023, a Hope Services outreach worker asks a homeless man in Kona a series of questions about the federally mandated point-in-time count. Photo: Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now

Paul Schneider, 49, has been homeless for four years despite working full-time as a cook at a restaurant in Kona. He said the three most important things to remember when living on the streets are to keep your belongings clean, not to have your belongings stolen and not to offend people. .

Schneider said he recently had his hammock, pillows, and everything he uses to maintain his body temperature stolen.

Next to Schneider on the seawall was a man in his 60s who called himself “OG,” an acronym for “Old Guy.”

Lying on a rock wall blanket, bundled head to toe in socks, jackets and beanies, OG said he was living on the streets himself.

And he says he does it sometimes so his buddy Schneider can take a hot shower.

OG said the hardest thing about being homeless is the assumptions people make about you. However, he said that Kona epitomizes the Aloha spirit, and that most people are kind and give.

Further down the wall was Carrie Ann Gouveia, 67, who had been homeless for three years and had heart problems and a stroke. said other homeless people looked up to her.

“Many of them love me and care for me,” said Gouveia.

Many homeless people talk to her when they need help. She said: “Not all of them are bad.”

While outreach workers distributed food and winter clothing, Gouveia received at least two boxes of Narkan for the ‘idiots’.

A homeless man turned down Narkan, proudly declaring he was completely drug free for two and a half weeks.

As the night wore on, Hoopii and her team visited parked cars evacuating people along Kona roads. Some people answered the questionnaire.

“If they’re willing to talk to us at this time — strangers — they’re always there to help,” Hoʻopiʻi said.

According to Hoʻopiʻi, the most difficult part of these encounters is when she has to leave them knowing there is no immediate solution to their home problems.

Volunteer Cindy Whitehawk has joined the outreach team twice this week. One of her encounters that stuck in her mind was a cement husband and wife. The woman was crying and her husband was screaming in excruciating pain, probably from gout.

“It broke my heart,” said Whitehawk.

A woman told Whitehawk: I’m too old for this. Whitehawk was able to talk to her to calm her down, and the Hope Service was able to help them enter the shelter together.

“A lot of people forget about the homeless. [individuals] I am also a person,” she said. “A lot of people are just one paycheck away from being homeless.”

There are 12 shelters on the Big Island of Hawaii, eight of which are operated by Hope Services. On Thursday night, Menino said he had only three beds available at the facility they run, all of them in Hilo’s men’s shelter.

The state and Hawaii county are working to provide temporary shelter and services for the homeless.

Hours before the Hope Service kicks off its final day of conducting the 2023 survey, Hawaii Governor Josh Green flew to Kona to celebrate and ground-breaking Kukuiola, a new small home village for the homeless. Did. -Shop center of service.

Depending on the results of the point-in-time count, outreach workers say it could open the door to more resources for the Big Island homeless community. Menino has been monitoring bills on homelessness introduced during this legislative session.

“I don’t want to be left behind when resources become available,” she said.

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