HUD funds to help homeless

LIHUE — Federal funding to combat homelessness will make its way to Kauai via state programs.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is awarding 45 Continuum of Care grants for the state of Hawaii, totaling $11.6 million. A total of $1.8 billion in grants was awarded nationally for nearly 8,400 programs that provide housing and support services to individuals and families experiencing homelessness.

Kauai Economic Opportunity received $47,309. KEO administrates Mana Olana overnight shelter, transitional housing, and other services.

The funding will make a difference for those facing homelessness, like Susan Sholl.

“I am on the KEO housing list,” said Sholl, who has been homeless for two years and can’t seem to find a way to get back on her feet. 

She rented rooms and other units but was evicted for not paying the rent after her landlord’s utilities were cut off and she was left without power — and didn’t get her deposit back.

Julian Wilford could benefit, too.

He was was waiting to sign up for the KEO shelter by sitting at Pua Loke park on Tuesday afternoon. The former Marine, who survives on Social Security, came to Hawaii after trying to resettle in various communities. Shelters are scarce and it is illegal to sleep in some towns at night.

Wilford said his vision of Hawaii may have been correct decades ago. He wanted to settle down in a place where he could live on his modest income but found it difficult, even with the contrasts between Oahu and Kauai. He said Honolulu had a lot of support but there were a lot of “crazies” to deal with and it was expensive. Kauai is like living in the country, which is very nice but not for everybody, he added.

The one thing Wilford said he notices about being homeless is that people treat you differently and it can be challenging to find a place to sleep for the night.

“The hardest part was finding out about pay camping late in the day after I went all the way to the North Shore,” he said.

HUD estimated 578,424 persons in 3,000 cities and counties around the country experienced homelessness on a single night in 2014. Since 2010, local communities around the country reported a 10 percent decline.

Kauai Community Alliance, a network of nonprofits, will also receive funding. It updates the homeless census each January. The 2014 count was around 400 people. 

The numbers don’t always match the expectations and KCA is working to improve outreach and make inroads with the assistance of trained volunteers to get more accurate counts every year, said KCA Chair Debra DeLuis.

David Leslie has been homeless for nine years. He said it would not be that bad if there were more shelters or transitional housing.

Working part time or temporary jobs is not enough to find more stable housing, he added.

Leslie said he survives by eating food out of the can from the food banks. He said there are some people who come by every day with food.

Homelessness, he said, “is not that bad other than the rain, the crazy people, and the police.”

Sergio Alcubilla, spokesman for the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, said the $60,912 they received from HUD will go to support the Homeless Holistic Civil Legal Service Program. It was established with a city and county grant to develop a homeless outreach program.

“It is part of our general services and will go to shore up the resources we already have for the homeless outreach program that we do,” Alcubilla said. “It will serve Kauai indirectly in support of their efforts.”

Tony Elliot, director of the Kauai Office of Veterans Services, said there are no homeless programs here for veterans but that referrals go to the HUD Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program on Oahu. The Kauai office conducts screenings and can refer local resources.

Other organizations receiving funding include Child and Family Services and The Salvation Army.

Funds might also go to help with referrals of Kauai homeless to organizations that assist with disabilities, inpatient substance abuse treatment or other higher needs that are not available on Kauai.

Tom LaVenture, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0424 or by emailing tlaventure@thegardenisland.com.

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