Fees are justified if needed to keep shelter operating
The Institute for Human Services will charge monthly fees of $90 to the homeless who stay in its shelters for at least three months.
For more than two decades, the homeless have found food and shelter for no charge at the Institute of Human Services in Iwilei. Beginning this week, institute will be charging $90 a month for those staying at least three months and who can afford it but will continue to house and feed the destitute. The charges reflect economic realities while leaving the compassion intact.
Founded 30 years ago by the Rev. Claude Du Teil, pastor of St. Christopher's Episcopal Church in Kailua, it began with distribution of peanut butter sandwiches and was dubbed the "Peanut Butter Ministry." Since finding a permanent site on Sumner Street in Iwilei, it has provided free food and shelter to as many as 250 homeless a day and, since 1997, as many as 150 women and children at its nearby Kaaahi Street shelter.
Connie Mitchell, the organization's executive director, indicated more than a year ago that expenses were nearing a prohibitive level. The cost of just basic shelter service was nearly $25 a day per person, she wrote in an op-ed piece on these pages. The state had been allocating $1.5 million a year to the institute, and donations by foundations, businesses and individuals had been just enough to keep it running. Federal funding has been reduced in recent years because of Hawaii's low unemployment rate.
Mitchell says the $90 monthly fee might have a good effect. Research shows the payments give the homeless pride and encourage them to find a permanent home more quickly. She said the shelter will not turn away people "who don't have resources and cannot pay."
The fees, which will begin as early as Sept. 1, is paltry compared to other homeless shelters. Housing Solutions Inc., which houses 1,500 people in apartments and shelters on Oahu, charges from $300 to nearly $1,000 a month.
The U.S. Veterans Initiative's Waianae shelter charges 300 homeless from $100 to $180 a month, and its transitional homes at Barbers Point cost tenants either 30 percent of their income or $200 a month. Darryl Vincent, division direct for U.S. Vets in Hawaii and California, agrees that the fees encourage people to take responsibility.
"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 told the Star-Bulletin's Alexandre Da Silva. "We see a direct correlation with that."
The Institute for Human Services has been an important rescue valve for residents most in need. The new fees are justified if they are needed to keep it in operation.