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Institute of Human Services aborts Kalihi location for homeless triage

By: Cassie Ordonio

25 October 2020

The two-story building in Kalihi would’ve been the Institute of Human Services’ homeless triage in September. (Google Maps)

<< Transcript >>

It’s a building that’s hard to miss.


At the corner of N. King Street and Long Lane, the pink, two-story building would've been home to the Institute of Human Services’ homeless triage and CARES Center.


After fierce pushback from the Kalihi neighborhood, IHS abandoned the location in September. This is the second time IHS was rejected by a neighborhood since the last proposal in Chinatown.


“We’re still convinced that it’s needed,” Connie Mitchell, executive director of IHS, said. “We need a place for people who are chronically homeless to be able to be triaged. We definitely want to do the other parts with our COVID relief services as well, but the neighbors in the area are clearly not wanting IHS’ presence there.”


Mitchell said the homeless triage was mistaken as a homeless shelter. The building was meant for homeless to clean and feed themselves, then be on their way, she said.


Mitchell added that the building would’ve provided - unemployment services to Kalihi residents who lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic.


In its plan to use the $2.6 million in federal grant money for the services, IHS is searching for a new home.


Honolulu Councilmember Joey Manahan, who once supported the project in Kalihi, is working with Mitchell to find IHS a location. 


“I fully support these services,” Manahan said. “It’s just unfortunate that in that one particular location there was a little pilikia (trouble) between the community and IHS, and we weren't able to bridge them.”


Cherisse Villanueva is a Kalihi resident who lives next door to what would’ve been the homeless triage. She said she was relieved to find out- the project is moving.


Villanueva and other opponents of the project have protested outside the building and signed petitions. She said that IHS never reached out to inform them of the homeless triage.


“Our main concern was our safety,” Villanueva said. “At the time we were already having illegal activity in our streets. If you bring homeless people that you say are mentally unstable or drug users then how can you help these people if our streets aren't already clean yet?”


But David Geirlarch, rector at Saint Elizabeth’s Episcopal Church, supported the project.


“It’s a perfect place for it because that area not only has a lot of houseless folks, but it’s got a lot of social services within walking distance,” Gierlarch said. “It’s a place for people to go and get better, so it’s a little head scratching that people would oppose it.”

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