Donation helps send homeless to Mainland families

LIHUE — Kauai Economic Opportunity Inc. has successfully repatriated four homeless individuals to their families on the Mainland and is making quick progress toward returning two more, an agency spokesperson said.

The efforts were made possible by a contribution from the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association.

“The successful return of these individuals to their families is a testament to what the visitor industry’s support has been able to accomplish,” said Mufi Hannemann, President and CEO of HLTA. “We applaud KEO for utilizing our contribution as a true catalyst for change on the Garden Isle. I know there will be many more stories like this to come in the near future.”

HLTA presented a $25,000 grant to KEO at HLTA’s 189th general membership meeting at the Sheraton Kauai Resort in Poipu. The funds, which come from HLTA’s nonprofit arm, the Hawaii Hotel Industry Foundation, were intended to provide assistance to eligible clientele who are ready to relocate to a safe shelter and pursue sustainable employment, as well as to repatriate some of the homeless back to their loved ones on the Mainland.

Since the grant was awarded, KEO has been vetting several individuals to provide them with transportation costs back to their home states, where they will live and pursue employment to gain self-sufficiency. To qualify for a ticket home, candidates must have a support system in place back home and be able to provide half the cost of the flight.

KEO has assisted four homeless individuals to return to homes on the Mainland. The first individual to return was a 40-year-old man from Alaska. While his situation in Hawaii could barely afford him food and clothes, he did have a family member across the ocean who was willing to give him a place to live. KEO and HLTA’s funding helped him get there. After he arrived in Alaska, the KEO staff contacted the individual’s mother, who assured them that he was in her care.

KEO next helped three more individuals return to their home states of Nevada, New Mexico, and Montana, respectively. KEO is working on more cases.

“The $25,000 grant from the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association is substantial in ending homelessness on Kauai,” said MaBel Ferreiro-Fujiuchi, CEO of KEO. “It assists those who can provide assurance of housing with family, friends, organizations or independently outside of Kauai but lack the resources to do so. In most situations, the grant will fund 50 percent of the travel cost, with the remaining 50 percent from the individual and/or others to return home to achieve self-sufficiency and end their homelessness,” she said.

The contribution to KEO was done in consultation with Mayor Bernard P. Carvalho Jr.

Similar donations have either occurred or are in the process of happening on both the Big Island and Maui, according to an HLTA spokesman.

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