By Dan Nakaso
On Thursday, West Hawaii launched Hawaii’s fourth Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion homeless program that pairs law enforcement officers with outreach workers to offer homeless people support and housing in lieu of citations or arrest.
The Hawaii island pilot project, following promising signs on Oahu and Maui, is funded by $650,000 in Ohana Zone funding from the state Legislature and could expand across the island.
The Big Island Substance Abuse Council will operate the pilot project along with partners HOPE Services Hawaii, Going Home Hawaii and Bridge House. Law enforcement organizations include Hawaii island police and the county Prosecutor’s Office.
Honolulu’s LEAD pilot began in July 2018, and a first-year evaluation found that participants saw a 55% reduction in law enforcement citations, an increased feeling of wellness, and a decrease in meth use. Maui’s LEAD program began in May and instantly resulted in getting a handful of homeless people off the street who had long histories of arrests and police involvements. Kauai also started up its LEAD program.
“The launch of Kona’s LEAD program represents another step forward in our effort to resolve homelessness,” Gov. David Ige said in a statement. “We are confident that LEAD will make a positive difference and improve the well-being of participants on Hawaii Island, just as it has on Oahu and Maui.”
Hawaii island Mayor Harry Kim said in a statement that, “I am excited about the implementation of the LEAD program on Hawaii island and more specifically in West Hawaii. I am so proud of our police officers and all others involved in this program.”
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