Uncle Clay Gohier, a formerly homeless beachboy, has returned to work and is housed for the first time in more than a decade thanks to the Institute for Human Services’ Waikiki homeless outreach.
“I’m back to doing the things that I love,” said the 76-year-old Gohier, who has been part of the Waikiki beachboy community since 1952.“I was in limbo for a while. My hip got infected from living out here, and I had to be hospitalized. I learned that if you don’t get the help you need, you ain’t going to make it. You won’t survive.”
|‘HAWAII FOR HAWAII’
>> When: Saturday, 5:30 to 9 p.m.
>> Where: Hilton Hawaiian Village, Great Lawn
>> What’s included: Music by Henry Kapono and friends. A four-course dinner with beer, wine and cocktail service. Parking is free and specialty cocktails will be available.
>> Purchase information: Tickets will be sold in table blocks with costs set at $5,000 for a five-person table and $10,000 for a 10-person table. Sponsors can team up to split table costs.
>> Telethon donations: Live televised coverage is available on KGMB (Channel 9) and KHNL (Channel 8) between 6 and 9:30 p.m. Live streaming is available at hawaiiforhawaii.com. Call 947-7950 to donate during the telethon.
>> More information: hawaiiforhawaii.com
Gohier, who works as a beachboy daily, said he fell into homelessness because his income couldn’t keep up with health expenses and rising rents. IHS moved Gohier from the hospital to the Hale Mauliola transitional shelter, where he was reunited with his wife, Verina. From there the couple were given the keys to their own McCully apartment, where Gohier has begun healing.
“It was all dark in the beginning. After we went to the shelter, we could see the light in the tunnel,” he said. “It means a lot to me that the visitor industry helped us.”
Gohier is urging the community to support IHS by giving to the “Hawaii for Hawaii” concert and telethon. The concert, scheduled for Saturday at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa, is IHS’ largest Waikiki fundraiser.
With ticket sales only about 40 percent of the event’s $1 million goal, more support is needed, said Jerry Gibson, Hilton Hawaii area vice president. “The Institute for Human Services does the hard and often dangerous work of daily counseling, mental health navigating, transportation, feeding, housing and assisting relocation of clients back home to other U.S. cities. These programs are costly. The $1 million we hope to raise can be a tremendous help,” Gibson said.
IHS’ community relations director, Kimo Carvalho, said the organization served 692 homeless clients during its 18-month pilot program supported by the visitor industry. “We’ve been able to move 500 of them off the streets and into shelter or permanent housing,” he said.
But more work is needed, Gibson said. “It’s our responsibility as an industry to educate our employees and our political leaders about the impact that homelessness has on our state and to work together to ensure that our homeless population is treated with dignity and respect as we work to end homelessness in Hawaii,” he said.
IHS is a key partner to the city in addressing homelessness, especially in Waikiki, said Mayor Kirk Caldwell.
“They are there when we need them and always there to help people in need. This concert is an opportunity to help IHS continue doing very important work while enjoying fantastic local music and ono food in the heart of Waikiki. Please join me in supporting IHS at Saturday’s second annual ‘Hawaii for Hawaii’ concert.”
If “Hawaii for Hawaii” hits its target, IHS has committed to two years of full-time outreach in Waikiki. IHS also will assist neighbor island partners with airline relocation funds to assist unsheltered homeless people who are seeking out-of-state housing.
Waikiki outreach workers aim to get at least 280 homeless individuals off the streets for each program year. A full-time case management team will connect clients with services to address challenges such as employment, health care, substance abuse, mental health and housing. IHS also will expand shuttle services offering routes that wind through Kakaako, Ala Moana and surrounding areas.
Carvalho said the nonprofit will push to move unsheltered individuals with mental health or substance abuse challenges into shelters and housing through court-ordered treatment and guardianship.
“Earlier intervention is critical. Chronic homelessness is killing people,” Carvalho said. “Since we launched the Waikiki program, we’ve had 24 people die at IHS because they were in such bad health by the time that they finally got here.”