Hometown Heroes: Kaiser donation to address homelessness on Big Island

  • Kaiser Permanente Hawaii has awarded a $95,000 grant to HOPE Services to help provide health care services to homeless individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic in Hawaii. (Courtesy photo/Special to West Hawaii Today)

  • HOPE Services workers prepare 18 tiny homes for occupancy amid the COVID-19 pandemic in June 2020 at Old Kona Airport Park in Kailua-Kona. (Chelsea Jensen/West Hawaii Today)

  • Yang

Editor’s note: Each Wednesday, West Hawaii Today is publishing a story about individuals, groups or organizations that have helped make life better for others in our community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kaiser Permanente Hawaii has awarded a $95,000 grant to HOPE Services to help provide health care services to homeless individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic in Hawaii.

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HOPE Services Hawaii, Hawaii Island’s largest homeless services provider, helps families and individuals who are at risk of displacement and are experiencing homelessness. The nonprofit provides financial management resources; outreach programs to connect people experiencing homelessness with health, housing and social services; and disaster relief assistance, including short-term emergency shelters.

The organization is also working to decrease the likelihood of transmission and community spread of COVID-19 among homeless individuals and medically vulnerable populations. Grant funding will go towards HOPE’s Street Medicine and Mobile Outreach program that provides health and social services developed specifically to address the unique needs and circumstances of individuals experiencing unsheltered homelessness by delivering care directly to them in their own environment.

In addition, Kaiser Permanente Hawaii awarded a $50,000 grant to the Hawaii Homeless Healthcare Hui on Oahu, a public-private partnership that operates the Punawai Clinic in Iwilei, where Oahu’s homeless population is most concentrated. The clinic offers four levels of service: basic hygiene, 24/7 urgent care, medical respite, and transitional housing. The grant funding will support the Medical Respite Service for Homeless Patients that aims to improve health care access and reduce costly emergency room visits by providing a safe and clean environment where patients can recover from an acute illness or injury.

“Public, private, and nonprofit organizations must come together to address the critical issue of homelessness in Hawaii, which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said John Yang, MD, president and medical director, Hawaii Permanente Medical Group. “We must work to ensure our most vulnerable populations do not fall through the cracks. When individuals have access to the health care and mental health services they need, they have more opportunities to thrive.”

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The $145,000 in grants are the latest in a series of contributions from Kaiser Permanente Hawaii to help residents throughout the state receive vital support services in response to the socioeconomic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the last 12 months, the health care organization has gifted over $2 million in current or planned grants to nonprofits serving communities across Hawaii, and has hosted 16 community support events including food distributions that have provided over 280,000 pounds of food to more than 7,000 local families.

Know a Hometown Hero who should be highlighted next Wednesday? It can be anybody, from a youngster doing good for the community, to a professional helping with the COVID-19 pandemic, or even a kupuna! Please send your nominations to cjensen@westhawaiitoday.com with the subject: Hometown Heroes Nomination. Please include the hero’s name, contact information and what makes them a hero.

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