AP NEWS

Hawaii organization gets $2.75M grant to fight homelessness

November 23, 2019

HILO, Hawaii (AP) — A Hawaii Island organization announced it was awarded $2.75 million from a fund backed by Amazon CEO and billionaire Jeff Bezos to support initiatives to combat family homelessness, organization officials said.

The money would be used to look at better strategies to support families, including outreach, a street medicine program and an emergency shelter, West Hawaii Today reported Friday.

Hope Services Hawaii Inc. was the only organization in Hawaii to be awarded the one-time grant from The Day 1 Families Fund this year, officials said.

“This grant is a win for all of us. It’s for our community. He’s investing in our community, investing in us, making sure (we) as a community have the resources to do this work,” Hope Services CEO Brandee Menino said.

This year, 32 organizations from 23 states received immediate donations totaling $98.5 million to support their individual efforts to provide shelter and support in their communities, officials said.

A street medicine pilot program began earlier this year where medical professionals ride with outreach teams weekly to assess the health concerns of people living on the street, Menino said.

An emergency shelter for families already exists in Hilo too, but the grant money could help volunteers assist those who enter the shelter quicker, Menino said. A “landlord fund” could also be started to help mitigate concerns and better secure housing for families, she said.

“What can we do to help them stay in the housing they’re in,” and prevent evictions, Menino said.

According to its website, Hope Services is an affiliate organization of the Roman Catholic Church in Hawaii and has housed at least 270 homeless families each year.

The fund launched in 2018 with a $2 billion commitment from Bezos and his now ex-wife to provide annual awards to organizations working to help families facing homelessness, officials said. Its two branches focus on grants for programs dealing with homeless families and preschools in under-served communities, officials said.

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Information from: West Hawaii Today, http://www.westhawaiitoday.com