Immigrant services to debut statewide

LIHUE — The state Office of Community Services will restore state-funded comprehensive services for Hawaii’s immigrant communities by opening resource centers across the state, including two on Kauai.

The four centers, scheduled to open by next month, will be housed in existing offices operated by four local nonprofits, including Catholic Charities Hawaii, Parent and Children Together, Susannah Wesley Community Center and Child and Family Service.

On Kauai, the resource centers will be operated by Child and Family Service and located at Nana’s House in Waimea and Hale Hoomalu in Kapaa.

Denise Pierson, a program administration and evaluation administrator at the Office of Community Services, said the centers will provide acculturation services, such as enrolling in school, assisting in citizenship paperwork and creating job resumes.

These immigration resource centers would also act as a referral hub for some clients seeking services that are not being offered by the host nonprofits.

“As a state, we’re very diverse and we really need services like this,” Pierson said. “These services are going to bring back 20 years of people wanting to come in and find help on where to find the services they need. I think it’s going to beneficial to all of the communities that they are in.”’

And the demand for these services, she said, are there.

A series of public meetings conducted by the Office of Community Services between May and July 2012 revealed, in part, that certain government agencies and staff lack cultural sensitivity to the needs and values of new immigrants; clients lack health care literacy and access; and serious language barriers exist in accessing information and needed services.

In all, about $700,000 has been allocated to date for the designated resource centers, which are currently getting the work out through ongoing public service announcements and paper fliers.

Pierson and other officials also say these resource centers will fill a gap in the community missing for nearly two decades.

Immigrant services, once offered by the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, were stopped during then Gov. John Waihee’s administration after funding ceased.

According to the 2011 American Community Survey, an estimated 240,090 people, or 17.8 percent of Hawaii’s total population, was comprised of people born outside of the United States between 2007 to 2011, compared to 12.8 percent for the entire nation for that same time.

About 44 percent of those people in Hawaii born outside of the United States, or 104,951 people in all, were identified as non-U.S. citizens.

Info: Jeffery Jacklick at 338-0252.

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