(BIVN) – The rooms in the Kona Holiday Inn Express are now serving as isolation units for high-risk seniors experiencing homelessness, amid stay-at-home orders.
The non-profit HOPE Services Hawaiʻi issued a media release on Friday, explaining how they are providing round-the-clock staff to support guests during the COVID-19 stay at home and curfew orders.
So far, 10 program participants have moved into 7 rooms. Those sharing rooms are couples from the same household, HOPE Services says. Some of the participants were already staying at the HOPE Services shelter, while others moved directly from the street.
Here is the full media release from HOPE Services:
HOPE Services began moving kupuna into the Holiday Inn Express on Thursday, April 9 to give dozens of houseless Hawaiʻi Island residents private rooms to shelter in place during the pandemic. The hotel guests were referred by Hope Services, with priority given to those who are at high risk of suffering serious complications from COVID-19, including kupuna and immunocompromised individuals.
The partnership comes amid the state’s stay-at-home order, which requires residents not to leave their homes, unless they are performing certain essential activities. Unfortunately, not everyone has a place to call home.
According to Bridging the Gap, a network of homeless service providers across the neighbor islands, 1,324 people on Hawaiʻi Island received homeless services last year. At least 7% of those were kupuna.
While becoming houseless puts all people at an elevated risk for a host of health problems, for some it can be deadly.
“CDC guidelines recommend that we all shelter in place, but not everyone has that luxury,” says HOPE Services CEO Brandee Menino. “We all have a role to play–from nonprofits, to businesses, to the county. It’s our responsibility as citizens to follow guidance from the infectious disease experts to make sure we protect the most vulnerable members of our ʻohana.”
The partnership comes on the tail of the county’s decision to defy CDC guidance by sweeping a homeless encampment in Hilo on Tuesday. “My team is working around the clock to keep everyone safe, Menino continued. “Not just people experiencing homelessness, but our entire community. When they stay healthy, we all stay healthy.”
HOPE Services Hawaii staff is partnering alongside Holiday Inn Express staff 24/7. Hotel personnel are providing in-room housekeeping services every 3 days, as well as disinfecting common areas, and preparing daily to-go breakfasts. HOPE Services team members are in essence, an extension of the hotel staff on site, to provide guests the support they need throughout their stay.
In order to qualify for this program, people experiencing homelessness must first register with HOPE Services. To register, call 935-3050 or email email@example.com. You may also make a referral if you know someone who is currently homeless. HOPE asks that interested parties do not visit the hotel, as no visitors will be allowed in the building.
We are gratefully accepting hand sanitizers, face masks and gloves for our houseless community and staff. Please call Joycelyn Cabal at (808) 217-2830 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org to make a donation, or visit hopeserviceshawaii.org to make a financial contribution.
The announcement has already raised concern in the surrounding business community.
“The Kailua Village Business Improvement District was notified today, Friday April 10, about the County’s plan to house homeless individuals at high risk for COVID-19 at the Holiday Inn Express in the middle of town,” wrote KVBID Executive Director Debbie Baker in a subsequent email release. “The Kailua Village Business Improvement District did not participate in developing the County plan and to our knowledge, there was no public input.”
“While we understand the need to care for those at risk including homeless, we are very concerned about the short and long term impacts of housing up to 40 high risk COVID-19 individuals on Sarona Road,” Baker wrote. “While the County plan does call for security, the experience at the shelters on Pawai Place have not demonstrated the ability to deliver a safe environment for surrounding property owners and the larger community.”
HOPE Services added that the project was made possible by a $25,000 operating grant from the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation.