City, veterans group launch $2M-plus Housing First program

waikiki homeless

The city is taking another step in its Housing First initiative.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced Friday that the city and the United States Veterans Initiative (U.S.VETS) are launching a $2.2 million Housing First program that will provide permanent supportive housing to 100 households experiencing chronic homelessness on Oahu.

“The Hawaii homeless problem is a community problem with community solutions,” U.S.VETS chief operating officer Darryl Vincent said, “and this is a unique opportunity for us to partner with the city and county, the state, homeless service providers, our landlords and, most importantly, our clients themselves.”

U.S.VETS has more than 20 years of expertise helping veterans and families experiencing homelessness nationwide, including 13 years in Hawaii. The agency currently operates 21 residential facilities, nine service centers in 13 different cities nationwide, including two sites on Oahu.

U.S.VETS also administers the state Housing First program on Oahu, where it provides permanent supportive housing to 86 households.

In its new initiative with the city, U.S.VETS has leveraged an additional $600,000 in outside resources on top of the $2.2 million provided by the city for a total operating budget of $2.8 million. U.S.VETS is partnering with agencies and providers, including Kalihi-Palama Health Center, Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, Helping Hands Hawaii, and the University of Hawaii, to offer a comprehensive array of services and programming to help house and heal its clients.

Housing First is a nationally recognized best practice proven to be the most effective and efficient approach to helping people experiencing chronic homelessness get off of the streets, into housing, and remain housed.

Housing First has become a critical component of Oahu’s continuum of homeless services. The city and state have together housed 314 people through Housing First. The city’s new partnership with U.S.VETS will serve an additional 110 to 150 individuals (depending on the composition of the 100 households served). A Request for Proposals for a third city Housing First program to house an additional 100 households will be posted early in 2017.

The city and state will together house approximately 600 people through Housing First within the next year.

“We’re moving people off the streets into homes and they’re staying there, and showing demonstrated success,” said state homeless coordinator Scott Morishige.

The city launched its initial Housing First initiative with the Institute for Human Services (IHS) in November 2014. In its first year, Housing First provided permanent supportive housing to 176 people in 115 households, including 35 children in 20 families, who were experiencing chronic homelessness, with a 97 percent retention rate.

Hale Mauliola
Hale Mauliola

The city’s Hale Mauliola Housing Navigation Center, operated by IHS, receives referrals from service providers from across Oahu and places clients into appropriate housing options, including Housing First. Thirteen Hale Mauliola clients have been placed into housing units and will be served by U.S.VETS under its Housing First partnership with the city beginning next week.  An additional eleven Hale Mauliola clients are ready to move into Housing First units with U.S.VETS.

“It’s become a safe place to stabilize clients, and to begin the housing navigation process, where IHS matches the client with the right type of housing support services,” said IHS director of community relations Kimo Carvalho, “and for chronic homeless, we will be working with U.S.VETS to utilize Hale Mauliola to actually match chronic homeless individuals with the housing support services.

“What we really like about this model is that Hale Mauliola becomes a place to allow providers like U.S.VETS to come provide health care services — whether it’s psychology, drug rehabilitation, counseling — while we’re working with the housing navigation site to get their identifications and housing process going. So the services are starting there on site, and we’re actually turning it over to U.S.VETS,” he said.

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