Millions of dollars’ worth of new housing vouchers are becoming available on Oahu just as a statewide ban on COVID-19- related evictions is scheduled to end in August, leading to fears that a new generation of families is about to become homeless. So a hui of government officials and nonprofit agencies are scrambling to convince more landlords to take advantage of new federal funding to house people already homeless across Oahu and those who are soon to become homeless.
A new program called Oahu Housing Now began placing homeless clients into market-rate rental units in April using nearly $11 million in new federal COVID-19 funds. The program operates similarly to the existing state and county Housing First programs. Landlords are guaranteed rent and utility payments for the life of a lease, repairs for damage, and access to case managers for any issues with clients.
Landlords who might need even more convincing to house Oahu Housing Now clients could possibly receive 13 months of rent for a one-year lease, said Laura Thielen, executive director of Partners in Care, which oversees Oahu Housing Now.
But while Housing First is designed for Hawaii’s most chronically and severe homeless, including those with mental health and substance abuse issues, Oahu Housing Now targets homeless clients “who could be working and newly homeless,” said Scott Morishige, the state’s homeless coordinator. “This program targets that layer below, the newly homeless who could be working on getting employment.”
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