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Work groups for each zip code will be led by 'team captains'

By Lara Yamada
Published On: Jul 05 2013 06:50:15 PM HST

Mayor Kirk Caldwell launches new state plan to help house and understand the homeless.

HONOLULU -

In recent years, after the recession hit advocates say those unemployed on the mainland heard Hawaii's job market was better, moved here, but couldn't make it.

And they say, smaller, cheaper hotels, hostels have all but evaporated -- subtracting an option for temporary housing.

"I think there's a sense of urgency, because the visibility has really increased," said Connie Mitchell, executive director of the Institute of Human Services.

According to the Department of Human Services, there are a total of 4,556 homeless people on Oahu streets.

3091 were sheltered in homeless emergency or transitional shelters and 1,465 were unsheltered -- with beds still available for about a third of that.

"I was a dealer, constantly doing it ice and it's not a good sight on this island," said Tracy Correia, who said she has been clean and sober for several years now.

She says drug addiction is a common reason for rejecting shelters, but said it was a blessing in her journey toward recovery.

Mitchell said their focus is shifting.

"We don't want to make more shelters. We want to get them into permanent homes," she said.

In May, Mayor Kirk Caldwell revealed the city's Homeless Plan.

It weighs heavily on a grant-funded program called Housing First -- which first finds people a place to stay, then offers them services to, hopefully, put them on a better track.

The state just launched a new program called the Homeless Assistance Work Group, to try and break down the problem in each community and create work groups to try to get to know the homeless people in their area.

"With every zip code there will be a known on a registry," said Mitchell.

A state registry is also in the works, to be shared with multiple departments and agencies, for the sake of building consistent data on Hawaii's homeless population.

"We're really focused on employment now," Mitchell said, as she showed KITV reporter Lara Yamada IHS' roof-top work-training garden, that the agency will debut in two weeks.

She said job training is another top priority.

"It is frustrating, but you got to keep going that's the way I look at it," said Correia.

It's a motto for her life and for the entire state, as an unavoidable problem goes under the microscope.

"It can't get worse. We can't let it get worse," said Mitchell.

Another idea: City Council member Ron Menor is proposing a website soliciting specific needs for homeless people in each community.

There's also the idea of a Mental Health Services Action plan to go along with the city's Housing First program.

And, the University of Hawaii architecture students are designing affordable units out of shipping containers.

The state said that project is progressing, but they haven't figured out yet where they might put the units.
 

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