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More mobile help coming for Maui people in need

County to help Ka Hale A Ke Ola pay for the damage done to trailer

A Maui police officer examines the damage after thieves broke into and stripped the Ka Hale A Ke Ola mobile hygiene unit of a toilet, water heaters and other supplies. The county said it will pay to refubish the vehicle. Photo courtesy of Ka Hale A Ke Ola

More help is on the horizon for Maui’s needy population as police spearhead an effort to roll out a Mobile Medical Educational Unit possibly by the end of the year.

The mobile unit will be a bus offering wound care, mental health services and education on preventative measures for COVID-19, as announced last week at Mayor Michael Victorino’s news conference.

Capt. Gregg Okamoto of the Quality Assurance Section said Friday that the mobile unit will be staffed by MPD and its partners, including American Medical Response, Mental Health Kokua and MPD’s CORE Unit, or Critical Outreach and Response through Education.

While anyone can request services wherever the unit is available, it mainly seeks to help those who are indigent or cannot obtain services, Okamoto said.

The bus is expected to be located at Salvation Army in Lahaina and in Kahului, along with St. Theresa Church in Kihei.

Okamoto said the idea came as “a response to our ongoing homeless issue, which was amplified by the pandemic.”

The police CORE Unit was already working closely with the state Department of Transportation and saw an opportunity to do something similar to programs on the Mainland, Okamoto said.

He added there is no estimated cost yet, but the bus is already owned by the county and will have to be refurbished, potentially through CARES Act funding.

Okamoto said he hopes the program can run indefinitely.

“If it proves successful, we are hoping to add units and be able to reach more communities throughout the county,” he added.

As the MPD-led program gets its start, Maui County is assisting another organization, Ka Hale A Ke Ola, to repair its mobile hygiene unit.

About a week ago, a toilet, water heaters and other supplies were stolen from the unit, which Ka Hale A Ke Ola regularly brought to St. Theresa’s to offer hot showers and a bathroom for South Maui’s homeless. Locks on the doors had been drilled and the trailer was essentially gutted, the nonprofit said.

Victorino said that the trailer should be “up and running” by December. The county provided the original funds for the unit, which cost a little over $34,000.

Ka Hale A Ke Ola Executive Director Monique Ibarra said Friday that they are grateful that the county is offering to cover the cost of the repairs, including paying staff overtime if needed, so the unit can be ready before Christmas.

“I’ve already spoke to the manufacturer and have placed an order for the parts to get shipped to Maui,” Ibarra said. “Our hope and prayers is that the shipping of the parts will be quick and not too delayed due to COVID.”

She added that the nonprofit had a GoFundMe page set up but has taken it down since Victorino offered to have the county cover the costs.

Ibarra said the organization does not want to take more than it needs, but if people want to donate to other programs, they can go to KHAKO.org.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com. Maui News Staff Writer Kehau Cerizo contributed to this report.

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