By Big Island Now | November 17, 2021, 12:06 PM HST * Updated November 17, 12:16 PM
Hawaiʻi County has begun a new campaign in an effort to provide alternative support for panhandlers throughout Kailua Village.
On Wednesday, Nov. 17, county workers posted 20 signs throughout Kailua-Kona promoting the “Change of Heart” campaign. The program, supported by the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce and the Kailua Village Business Improvement District, along with a myriad of Kona-based human-service-focused nonprofits, aims to direct “spare change” to Hawaiʻi Island United Way (HIUW) rather than individual panhandlers.Courtesy of Hawai’i County
HIUW will receive funds from the community and reinvest the proceeds into programs and services to assist the homeless and others in need. The program will accept donations and sponsor services year-round.
County spokesperson Cyrus Johnasen said this is a West Hawaiʻi pilot program.
The Office of Housing and Community Development funded the fabrication of the signs, which cost $1,533. Installation was done in-house. One-hundred percent of the donations will stay on island and will be used to support programs that address homelessness in Kailua Village.
After a year, the county will assess community response and determine an expansion to the Eastside if the program is successful.
“The Kailua Village Business Improvement District is proud to work with Mayor Roth and Hawaiʻi County on homelessness solutions,” stated Kailua Village Business Improvement District Executive Director Debbie Baker. “The Change of Heart panhandling campaign will not only educate residents and visitors to direct their donations to Hawaiʻi Island agencies that can help to find solutions but we’re also excited that the initiative could help to clear the medians of panhandlers and make it safer for everyone.”
Karen Davis, president and CEO of HIUW, said nonprofit organizations that are helping to combat the homeless crisis include Hope Services Hawaiʻi, Catholic Charities Hawaiʻi, West Hawaiʻi Community Health Center, 808 Homeless Task Force, and Hawaiʻi Rise Foundation.
Davis encouraged the public to donate where they can to help fight this crisis.
“The homeless crisis is more prevalent in Hawaiʻi than ever,” she said. “We encourage proactive efforts and solutions from our nonprofit partners versus panhandling as the latter is enabling. No donation to the Change of Heart Initiative is too small.”
Mayor Mitch Roth also expressed his support for Change of Heart.
“Providing vital services to those in need is paramount to creating an island community where we can all thrive and succeed,” Roth said. “By channeling spare change to a proven and trusted nonprofit, we are confident that the money will be better spent and positively impact everyone in the community and not just a select few. This campaign is about seeking long-term solutions and not temporary fixes to addressing the growing inequities on our island.”