RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
People came and went yesterday at the women's Institute for Human Services shelter.
Pay to stay
IHS to start charging homeless with long-term shelter needs
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Oahu's sole round-the-clock, walk-in emergency homeless shelter will begin charging people $90 a month if they cannot find a permanent place to stay in three months.
The Institute for Human Services announced yesterday the fee is intended to help homeless save money and budget for rent once they leave the shelter. IHS Executive Director Connie Mitchell says research shows that the payments will help the homeless get back on their feet faster.
The policy, which kicks in tomorrow at the nonprofit's Kaaahi Street shelter for women and families, will extend later this year to its men's shelter on Sumner Street.
Some people, such as Danuse Urbaskova, have been critical of the rent plan. "It's nonsense," said Urbaskova, who has no income and plans to leave the shelter.
ALEXANDRE DA SILVA
BY THE NUMBERS
The Institute for Human Services
» Average nightly occupancy (both shelters): 150 men, 80 women and 24 families
» Capacity: 220 men, 100 women and 27 families
» Annual meals: 290,222
» Annual housing placement: More than 150 families, or 560 people
» Cases: Case managers serve 140 people with mental illness, about half of them no longer in shelter.
Source: Institute for Human Services
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Without a home or job, Danuse Urbaskova plans to leave the downtown emergency shelter where she has slept, showered and eaten for free for the past two years.
The 55-year-old is hoping to find a care home that will take her before she is billed a $90 monthly fee the Institute for Human Services shelter will begin charging as early as Sept. 1.
"It's nonsense," she said of the new policy while smoking a cigarette outside the 80-women shelter at 546 Kaaahi St. "I have no Social Security, I have no money at all, so I couldn't pay it."
The shelter, run by the 30-year-old nonprofit institute, announced yesterday it would require homeless staying longer than three months after June 1 to pay the $90, or about $3 a day. The fee will kick in later this summer at the organization's shelter for men at 350 Sumner St.
The move is aimed at preparing the homeless to budget for rent once they get out, said institute Executive Director Connie Mitchell. She said research shows the payments give homeless pride and help them find a permanent home more quickly.
The funds would go toward more job and home placement support, according to Mitchell, who said the institute would not evict people unable to pay the fee if they do not have money for legitimate reasons such as having suddenly lost a job.
"It really is about us wanting to promote more self-sufficiency," she said. "I know that there are a lot of people that are critical of the decision that has been made, but I maintain that we are not turning people away who don't have resources and cannot pay."
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Danuse Urbaskova, who lives at the women's Institute for Human Services shelter, talks about the fee that will soon be imposed on some residents there.
At least two other Oahu shelter operators agreed that homeless who pay for services get back on their feet faster.
"Part of getting out of homelessness is becoming independent and people taking responsibility for their own livelihood," said Darryl Vincent, division director for the U.S. Veterans Initiative in Hawaii and California.
The nonprofit's Waianae shelter charges about 300 homeless between $100 to $180 a month as long as they have income, Vincent said. And about 100 people who live at U.S. Vets' transitional homes at Barbers Point spend either 30 percent of their income or $200 a month on rent, he said.
"The guys that pay fees in the program are the ones that are most successful when they move independently in terms of keeping their housing and paying their rent," Vincent added. "We see a direct correlation with that."
The Institute for Human Services is Oahu's only 24-hour, walk-in emergency homeless shelter. It received $1.9 million in state funds for services in fiscal year 2007, Mitchell said, but the institute tries to fundraise about $1.8 million more each year.
Terry Brooks, president of Housing Solutions Inc., which houses some 1,500 people in affordable apartments and transitional shelters on Oahu, called the institute's $90 fee "extremely modest."
"It helps IHS just be there. It's a huge operation and it's costly," he said, noting his tenants pay between $300 to almost $1,000 depending on how much they earn and where they live.
Colette Batman, 40, has been at the institute's shelter for 2 1/2 weeks, since she got into an argument with her boyfriend and was kicked out of his Kaneohe home.
She expects to pay $90 while she waits to hear whether the Honolulu Fire Department will accept her application and call her for a written and physical exam in September. She also plans to apply to work at Bank of Hawaii and Diagnostic Laboratory Services.
"Paying $90 after three months is not much to ask at all, considering the alternatives," she said. "I'm grateful that this place exists."