HONOLULU (KHON2) — A new team of first responders is focusing on providing care to the homeless in urban Honolulu. The CORE team responds to non-violent homeless-related 911 calls to free up EMS resources for more urgent situations.

The CORE team went online in mid-October, and it includes medical and mental health providers that focus on the care needs of the homeless community.

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John Roberts Jr., a 74-year-old veteran, was admitted to the hospital at the beginning of November; however, on Friday, Nov. 5, he lies on the streets of Chinatown once again.

“It’s depressing talking about me, talk about something good. Like getting me off the concrete,” Roberts Jr. said.

Hawaii Certified Peer Specialist Mike Peacock is currently in the process of joining the city’s CORE team, which stands for “Crisis, Outreach, Response and Engagement.”

Peacock has also experienced homelessness himself; he is attempting to help Roberts Jr. navigate benefits.

“This is, unfortunately, a worst-case scenario because he can’t get up, can’t go to the bathroom — all that kind of stuff,” Peacock explained. “Some people have mental health diagnosis; they’re not getting their medication, so you need to have somebody come and make sure they get their medication.”

There are plans to expand the CORE team by adding community health workers and social workers. There are currently two retired ambulances that were refurbished for the program. These ambulances work with EMS dispatch to respond to certain calls; the first responders also actively monitor areas of Waikiki, Downtown and Chinatown.

Honolulu’s Emergency Medical Services Director Dr. Jim Ireland said the purpose of CORE is to go beyond medical transportation. They want to connect patients with resources to get them off the streets.

“They may finish their visit in the ER,” Ireland said. “But then we want to circle back with them either that day or the next day and help them address what got them there in the first place. Do they have mental health issues, addiction issues, why are they homeless?”

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Roberts Jr. was transported to Tripler Army Medical Center for now, but the next step for him is obtaining his veteran benefits he recently qualified for. The hope is to get him into permanent housing soon.