Job Center On Wheels Connects Homeless With Work

Mar 10, 2016

Credit Molly Solomon

A mobile job center is popping up in neighborhoods around O‘ahu. The program is run by the Institute for Human Services and helps connect homeless people with work. HPR’s Molly Solomon explains.

Hundreds of people fill a Kaka‘ako warehouse on Keawe street. They come every week to the Feeding Hawai‘i Together food bank to collect free groceries.  Starting today, they’ll also find a booth, run by I.H.S. called Hele 2 Work. November Morris manages the staff of mostly volunteers and interns, who are working to provide employment opportunities for those in need. “We help people that are homeless but we also help people that are at risk," said Morris. "Maybe they have a place but they lost their job. They may not have that place next month so we’re here to help them too.”

Credit Molly Solomon

Morris says the program offers everything from resume building and interview skills, to free haircuts and bus passes -- even child care. “All this we do at our office location at Iwilei," Morris said. "But now we’re basically putting all of that on wheels and bringing that out to the community where there’s a community need.”

In just one hour, Morris and his team meet with about 15 people. Some are already employed but only work part time. Others are looking for higher paying jobs. All of them say it’s been a struggle, looking for work while homeless. “Living outside, it’s rough, you get robbed, you get your things stolen. If you have addiction or mental health issues, you have to get that managed before you start looking for work," Morris said. "We really focus on people who are ready to work. If they’re not ready, we help them focus on the things that they need to get ready. Once they are, we give them everything they need to get that job.”

Through private donations and a grant from the city, the center was able to secure a 15-passenger van. They’ll use that to travel to locations across the island, focusing on communities in Wai‘anae, Waimānalo and the North Shore. You can find the mobile employment center's monthly schedule here.