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Homeless H4 Project: Hygiene, Healthcare, Housing and Humanitarian Services

Wayne Yoshioka

Emergency medical care for Honolulu’s homeless cost taxpayers millions of dollars each year.  Now, there’s a possible solution. HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports. 

A former clothing manufacturing building on Kuwili Street in Iwilei is the site of the future Homeless H-4 Project.  Plans call for a Hygiene Center on the first floor, healthcare on the second, and housing for about 40 people on the third and fourth.  Senator Josh Green is also an emergency room doctor on the Big Island.

Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Senator Josh Green, an emergency room physician, is co-founder of Hawai'i Homeless Healthcare Hui which is spearheading the Homeless H4 Project.

“The average individual who’s homeless for a long time ends up spending tens and tens of thousand of dollars going to the emergency department, getting taken there by the medics, by the police having to pick people up, the average person spending $80-thousand per year and then not getting any better.  The moment you put a roof over somebody’s head with the H4 project, we’re gonna decrease the cost by 43 percent.”

The Hawai’i Medical Service Association is contributing 8 million dollars for the project and Queens Medical Center will provide physicians and staff for healthcare.   The City and County of Honolulu purchased the building for 6 million dollars.  Mayor Kirk Caldwell says other cities have them but the H4 project is the first of its kind in Hawai’i.

Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Honolulu Mayor, Kirk Caldwell, discusses the Homeless H4 Project with Department of Community Services director, Pam Witty-Oakland.

“This is a public-private partnership.  The City is bringing to the table, the infrastructure in terms of the building.  We’re bringing some of the money to build out, and we’re reaching out to the private sector to provide the wrap-around services.  It’s something that we can’t do, as you know, all counties in the State of Hawai’i are not in the healthcare business and so we need assistance from the private sector to do that.”

Another 10 million dollars is budgeted for construction.  Honolulu City Councilmember, Joey Manahan, says the center will serve the largest concentration of homeless people in Honolulu.

“I think we’ll have 4 or 5 showers as well as washing machines for people to do laundry for free and I think that’s a huge other component that a lot of homeless individuals kinda need because they’ve been living out, exposed, for so long.”

Requests for Proposals to operate the hygiene center will go out soon.  Senator Green says once the project is completed in 4-6 months it can be duplicated statewide.

“We spend $2 billion a year on Medicaid.  If we could save 40 percent of that, that’s $800 million.  If we save even a fraction of that, it will help the taxpayer, it will help keep premiums down but most importantly it will help keep people who are really having a tough go.  And that’s a chronically homeless individual.”

For HPR News, I’m Wayne Yoshioka.

Wayne Yoshioka
Wayne Yoshioka is an award-winning journalist who has worked in television, print and radio in Hawaiʻi. He also has been on both sides of politics as a state departmental appointee and political/government reporter. He covered Hurricane Iwa (1982) as a TV reporter; was the State Department of Defense/Civil Defense spokesperson for Hurricane Iniki (1992); and, commanded a public affairs detachment in Afghanistan (2006). He has a master's degree in Communication from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and is a decorated combat veteran (Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and 22 other commendation/service medals). He resides in Honolulu.
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