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Hawaii nonprofits face uphill battle in ending homelessness

<i>KITV</i><br/>Hawaii nonprofits face an uphill battle in ending homelessness.
Hawaii nonprofits face an uphill battle in ending homelessness.

By Kristen Consillio

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    HONOLULU (KITV) — William Vierra has been on and off the streets for the past 30 years.

And when he was housed, “I’d be working at a job and I wouldn’t be able to pay after awhile cause I got laid off or I had some problems with another worker.”

He says his troubles stem from the many voices in his head.

“It stops me from doing a lot of things,” Vierra said. “It’s a mental problem that sticks with me. It’s something that I don’t think I deserve, but I do have it.”

About 20% of the homeless people who do get housing still can’t keep a roof over their heads.

That’s according to the Institute for Human Services, which hosted about 100 service providers from 19 groups across the state today to try to find solutions to the growing homeless crisis. And specifically strategies to keep people in their homes.

“If you spent years on the street and then somebody places you into housing, it’s a huge transition,” said Connie Mitchell, executive director of the Institute for Human Services. “And people have really been traumatized quite a bit already being out on the street.”

And for many traditional life is difficult — holding a job, feeling secure and getting the substance abuse treatment or mental health care needed to maintain a healthy home.

“We just have a hard time being in a house. It’s uncomfortable to us at that point. Watching TV and cooking in a simulated kitchen is not what we’re used to,” said Teri Jones, a homeless woman living in Honolulu. “And we don’t feel like we fit in. People make us feel like there’s something wrong with us.”

Homeless service providers say it’s not just their problem — but all of ours.

They’re calling for more residents to step up — to volunteer with groups that provide shelter and support for those in need. That includes landlords who participate in low-income housing programs and volunteers who can welcome homeless people into the community.

“It hits deep cause Hawaii’s my own and Hawaii’s all of our home but I know that the aloha spirit is to love and I think that’s what we need more is aloha,” said Kainoa Elderts, a program coordinator at IHS.

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