By STEPHANIE SALMONS Hawaii Tribune-Herald | Friday, November 22, 2019, 12:05 a.m.

Brandee Menino 

Hope Services Hawaii will receive a $2.75 million grant from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ Bezos Day 1 Families Fund to help combat homelessness on Hawaii Island.

CEO Brandee Menino said Hope Services was invited to apply for the grant about a month ago.

Day 1 Families works with a small group of homelessness advocates and experts to identify a list of organizations “that are moving the needle on family homelessness,” she said.

Menino said the funding is “unique and it’s flexible, so it allows us to assist the most vulnerable families on our island to avoid and overcome homelessness.”

Part of the grant money will allow Hope Services to better look at strategies and to be creative in how they help families, she said.

“What can we do to help them stay in the housing they’re in,” and prevent evictions, Menino said.

The one-time grant also will help Hope Services scale up other supports for families experiencing homelessness, including outreach, a street medicine program and an emergency shelter for families in crisis.

Menino said Hope Services began piloting a street medicine program earlier this year where a medical team rides along with the organization’s outreach team every Wednesday to treat homeless individuals and assess medical concerns.

She said, too, that an emergency shelter for families already exists in Hilo, but they want to be able to assist those who enter the shelter quicker.

Hope Services also plans to expand its homelessness prevention efforts, which includes working with landlords to secure housing for families as quickly as possible.

Menino said the organization also is looking to establish a “landlord fund” to help mitigate landlord concerns.

“It takes a community,” Menino said. “It’s all of us working together to improve the lives of the families in our community. This grant is a win for all of us. It’s for our community … He’s investing in our community, investing in us, making sure (we) as a community have the resources to do this work.”

Hope Services is one of 32 nonprofits across the country receiving such a grant. The Day 1 Families Fund issued a total of $98.5 million in grants this year.

The Bezos Day One Fund was launched in 2018 with a commitment of $2 billion and a focus on funding existing nonprofits that help homeless families and creating a network of new, nonprofit preschools in low-income communities.

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