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'Rest Stop' Serves Homeless 68,000 Times--Only 92 Accept Housing
By News Release @ 11:48 PM :: 592 Views :: Honolulu County, Homelessness
Pūnāwai Rest Stop celebrates 1 year anniversary

News Release from Office of the Mayor, January 7, 2020

HONOLULU – One year after its debut, the new Pūnāwai Rest Stop in Iwilei has welcomed thousands of people with a total of over 68,000 services. All of the clients were greeted with aloha by staff of Mental Health Kokua, the nonprofit contracted by the city to operate this first of its kind facility.

This facility has been instrumental in placing formerly homeless individuals into permanent housing. As of Dec. 2019, a total of 92 people have been placed into housing as a direct result of the consultation they received when visiting the Pūnāwai Rest Stop. Along with housing, 35 individuals have found employment through the services offered at Pūnāwai, and another 10 people have entered into substance abuse treatment.

The rest stop opened its doors on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019 at noon.

“When we opened Pūnāwai last year, we knew that it was going to fill a significant need, but I don’t think we could have predicted the enormity of the impact it would have,” said Mayor Kirk Caldwell. “Along with serving hundreds of people every day, Pūnāwai provides vital services in a place of great humanity for people in need. The goal of this facility is not just to provide a measure of dignity by giving homeless individuals a place to wash their clothes and store their belongings, but to connect them to the network of resources and people who care and can support their unique needs. With the projected opening of the housing and clinic arms of this facility, we’ll have even more tools to use in our effort to help people get off the street, and into permanent housing.”

“The Pūnāwai Rest Stop hygiene center program has far exceeded our expectations and highlights the fact that the need for the services we are providing is great,” Said Councilmember Joey Manahan. “It’s a zero-barrier program which means there’s no cost to the patrons and there are no requirements or credentials needed to use the services. The only thing that we require is that our clients keep their shower and laundry appointments which encourages self-sufficiency, and that they respect the safety and dignity of other patrons while using the Rest Stop. This is a safe place where people can come to take a load off, reset, and get their bearings. It’s a program that restores dignity one shower one load of laundry at a time. The Pūnāwai Rest Stop was created to alleviate the day to day hardships and the symptoms of poverty people experience when living on the streets.”

Located at 431 Kūwili Street, the Pūnāwai Rest Stop offers restroom, shower, laundry, computer use, and case management services from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days per week. Mail service is also available to guests, who can utilize the Kūwili Street address to receive their correspondence, including IDs, which are needed to access Medicaid and other critical services.  Successful community partnerships have also provided on-site workshops, veterinary services for pets, and other free resources.

The Pūnāwai Rest Stop is the first of its kind in the City and County of Honolulu and follows the successful implementation of a smaller rest stop in the Chinatown area, also owned by the City and operated by Mental Health Kokua. Eight showers are available at the new rest stop for male and female clients, including a shower for ADA clientele. The intake area allows staff to greet clients in a friendly and non-threatening environment where they will be referred to other services that are available, for example, obtaining official government IDs. The rest stop is pet friendly, with kennels available to guests upon registration. Lockers to store personal belongings are also available, and the facility includes a machine that kills bed bugs with intense heat.

“The Pūnāwai rest stop creates the opportunity to develop a relationship with our homeless population and also to build trust,” said Pam Witty Oakland, Director of the City’s Department of Community Services. “These relationships help to get these individuals access to the services they need, and into housing.”

The Pūnāwai Rest Stop is operated by Mental Health Kokua, which also operates the rest stop in Chinatown on Pauahi Street. Building on this successful City partnership, Mental Health Kokua secured the bid to operate the new rest stop for one year at a cost of $1 million. The contract allows the City to extend the agreement with Mental Health Kokua up to four times for one year extensions.

“We are thankful to Mayor Caldwell and Councilmember Manahan for their vision and commitment to address homelessness, and to provide the homeless people we serve with the opportunity to begin again.” said Mental Health Kokua CEO Greg Payton.

The City’s Department of Community Services and the Department of Design and Construction worked with Paradigm Construction and management company Trinity Management Group LLC to complete construction of the Pūnāwai Rest Stop at a cost of $4.3 million dollars.

Photos of the press conference – courtesy City and County of Honolulu

—PAU—

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