HONOLULU - A new initiative to address homelessness in Hawaii focuses on how the public can help ease the problem.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie announced Monday a system for the public to call or email with information about those who may be homeless. After a report is made, an outreach team will be assigned to visit the person in need.
Abercrombie said at a news conference at the Waikiki Health Center's Kaimuki drop-in center that the initiative is not meant to just sweep people off the streets but to provide individualized help.
"This is not going to be a one-shot deal," he said. "This is an ongoing process. . . . We intend to follow through."
Hawaii's residents often see homeless people across the state but feel powerless to help, Abercrombie said.
When asked if the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference meeting to be held in Honolulu in November is the impetus behind the initiative, Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz said the international event serves as a "handy deadline" to deal with homelessness, but that the government has a moral obligation to address the problem.
He said the call system is the first step in coordinating efforts between the state and counties.
Officials acknowledge that outreach for the homeless doesn't always help.
Darlene Hein, Waikiki Health Center's director of community services, said establishing trust is necessary for outreach to be effective.
A woman who lives in her car and did not want to provide her name listened to the news conference. She was at the drop-in center because it provides an address for her to receive mail.
She said she found Abercrombie's words hopeful.
"You got to walk in their shoes to understand," she said. "Some of us have been lost, we've been pushed out of our homes."
Those calling or emailing one of four centers across the state must provide their contact information, along with the location and time of where and when a homeless person is known to frequent and a detailed description of the person or group.