HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – On Tuesday night, an outreach worker from ALEA Bridge found a woman and her 7-year-old daughter soaked to the bone in Booth Park.
The pair was standing next to a shopping cart with everything they own.
The woman said she and her daughter recently escaped an abusive relationship. For their safety, Hawaii News Now is not revealing their identities.
“I was utterly terrified,” the woman told HNN. “I didn’t have the funding or the means to do anything on my own.”
With nowhere to turn, she says she called Kalihi-Palama Health Center, which has a homeless outreach program.
“I told them, ‘Look, I’m desperate. I have my daughter on the street and I really need some help,'” the woman said.
The answer she got shocked her: She said the nonprofit told her before she could get any help, she needed a homeless verification letter.
“She said in order for me to get a homeless verification letter I would have to be homeless on the street for a period of three days,” the woman said. “I told her I had been on the street for three days except that I spent the night at a friend’s house one night. She said your three days starts all over.”
Hawaii News Now reached out to the nonprofit’s CEO, and no one from the organization has returned the call.
But the state’s homeless coordinator, Scott Morishige, says the document is not required to stay in an emergency shelter.
Instead, the federal government uses the letter to verify that people receiving services are indeed homeless.
“There are many ways to get the letter,” he said. “You can sign a statement that says you certify you’re homeless.”
Morishige believes the outreach worker at Kalihi-Palama may have mistakenly relied on an old policy.
“I think in the past there was a standard for some providers that they needed to encounter someone at least three separate occasions out in the field before they could write the letter saying their homeless,” he said.
This story, though, has some good news: The woman and her 7-year-old daughter has been connected with help.
ALEA Bridge founder Joe Acosta made sure the two were moved off the streets and into a shelter.
“To think that girl that age would have been on the street with her mom. They hadn’t slept for three days,” Acosta said. “Just constantly moving around. We weren’t about to leave them on the street for one more day.”
If you’re going through a similar situation and don’t know who to turn to, call 211. Operators can give you a personalized list of options.