LIHUE — Some of Kauai’s homeless are finding homes.
Kauai Economic Opportunity has successfully repatriated four homeless individuals to their family on the Mainland and is working on returning two more.
The efforts were made possible by a $25,000 grant contributed by the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association.
“The $25,000 grant from the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association is substantial in ending homelessness on Kauai,” said MaBel Ferreiro-Fujiuchi, CEO of KEO.
The funds, which come from HLTA’s nonprofit arm, Hawaii Hotel Industry Foundation, were intended to provide assistance to eligible clients who were ready to relocate to a safe shelter and pursue sustainable employment, as well as to repatriate some homeless back to the Mainland.
“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,” Ferreiro-Fujiuchi said.
Since the grant was awarded last October, KEO has been vetting individuals to provide them with transportation costs back to their home states, where they will pursue employment to gain self-sufficiency.
To qualify for an airline ticket, candidates must have a support system in place back home, and be able to provide half the cost of the flight.
“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,” Ferreiro-Fujiuchi said.
So far, KEO has helped four people return. The first was a 40-year-old man from Alaska. While he could barely afford food and clothes in Hawaii, he had a family member across the ocean who was willing to give him a place to live. After he arrived in Alaska, the KEO staff contacted his mother, who assured them he was in her care.
Soon after, KEO helped three more individuals return to their home states of Nevada, New Mexico and Montana. KEO is currently working on two more repatriation cases.
“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.”
In the past year, KEO served more than 5,000 people in need. The 2016 contribution to KEO was done in consultation with Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.
“I was present and lent my support when HLTA and KEO announced late last year that they were joining forces on a creative solution to assist and support our homeless community,” said Carvalho. “Mufi Hannemann and MaBel Ferreiro-Fujiuchi, the heads of these two organizations, ought to be commended for their leadership and working collaboratively with county officials to successfully meet this challenge head-on.”
In 2015, collaborating with Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa and the Institute for Human Services, HLTA donated $25,000 to the Maui Family Life Center for a similar program. HLTA is in discussion with Hawaii Island Mayor Harry Kim’s office and intends to give another $25,000 to agencies on the Big Island this fall.