The Conversation: IHS, ALEA Bridge on Oahu's Homeless Situation in 2020

Dec 18, 2020

Institute for Human Services on addressing Oahu's homelessness; ALEA Bridge partners with YMCA to house homeless at Camp Erdman; Houseless man awaits new year, new beginning; Update on the Kauai art scene; Spiritual guidance during the COVID crisis; Christmas music from local artists

Credit Noe Tanigawa / Hawai'i Public Radio

 Institute for Human Services executive director on addressing Oahu's homelessness

In the course of the year, we've followed homeless stories and developments through the COVID pandemic. The Institute for Human Services, IHS, is Oahu's largest homeless provider. They handle town and most of Oahu except the North Shore and Waianae. Last year, IHS found housing for 3,266 people. More than 2,000 people spent time at their various shelters. This year, they opened a medical respite houses. They also run Kahauki Village, with 120 households, nearly 400 people. IHS offers a full range of services, care on the street, emergency shelter, stabilization, housing and employment placement, and executive director Connie Mitchell syas, as our understanding of homelessness grows, more targeted solutions follow. Still, ultimately, she says, we need more housing.

Stories from IHS's frontline workers

IHS does street outreach - they don't wait for homeless to find them. Case workers find people living on sidewalks, under overpasses, along stream beds, or on the slopes of Diamond Head. Right now, they're very concerned about an encampment on the stream bed below the overpasses at Kapiolani and Kapahulu. what have these service providers seen? What do they think should be done? We hear Justin Phillips, senior outreach program manager, and Kalani Napihaa, community outreach specialist, with IHS.

Credit Francisco Armangac

  ALEA Bridge partners with YMCA to house homeless at Camp Erdman

The YMCA's Camp Erdman is located in Kaena Point State Park on the North Shore of Oahu, on wild, windswept Mokuleia Beach. Most kids on Oahu spend a few nights there in the 4th or 5th Grade. When I talked with Andrew Keener, executive director at the camp, he was really exciged about a new COVID collaboration. The Huliau Program has put his team back to work, and replaced his usual student campers with people who have been living on the beach or in cars. These people are Dee Nakamura's clients. Dee was homeless herself but she started working with ALEA Bridge, the main homeless service provider on the North Shore. This new Huliau collaboration with the Y was kicked off on City COVID funds. They'd requested $46,000, and were granted $200,000. Forty people have made it off the beach so far through the Huliau Program, and 14 people are in permanent housing for Christmas - including a family with 4 kids.

Formerly houseless man awaits new year, new beginning

Have you been to Mokuleia lately? It's a huge, sandy beach with coral flats near the shore. Waves break closer to the horizon, then wrap around Kaena Point. Gary was homeless three years on Mokuleia Beach. Now he's moving to an apartment and jobs in Wahiawa. 

Credit County of Kauai/Facebook

  Update on the Kauai art scene

2020 has been somewhat transformative for Lihue town. If you haven't seen it, you might be surprised! NirMANAfest, Kauai's version of Pow!Wow!, debuted on schedule in October, among other things. We checked in with artist and executive director of the Garden Island Arts Council, Carol Yotsuda. She had some health problems last year but bounced back strong. 

Spiritual guidance during the COVID crisis

Down at Camp Erdman, Kai Markell's name came up as someone who was good at motivating new clients. Markell is a Native Hawaiian rights attorney, educator and cultural practitioner. His expertise is in the field of Hawaiian remains and burials. He describes the new Huliau homeless project.

Credit Tookapic /

  Christmas music from local artists

2020's Na Hoku Hanohano Male Vocalist of the Year is out with holiday album. But he's not the only one coming up with holiday tunes. At the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center, they've been keeping pretty busy with the food distributions and now, because the Waianae Coast is one of the hardest hit communities in Hawaii, they're at work distributing the first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine. So there's a lot going on, but they also managed an employee contest for best COVID Christmas carol. Here's a sampling, and click here to listen to rest of the submissions.